Florida high school shooting: What we know so far

At least 17 people are dead after a gunman opened fire on a local high school in southeastern Florida.

At least 17 people were killed last week in a mass shooting at a high school in southeastern Florida. 

Police say a gunman opened fired shortly before the school day ended. According to officials, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student, confessed to carrying out the shooting rampage. 

The shooting has galvanised students and thousands of others to organise near-daily protests, demanding stricter gun control laws. 

Here’s what we know so far about the shooting and protests that followed: 

What happened and where?

  • A gunman began shooting outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday just before the end of the school day.
  • The gunman arrived at the school at 2:19pm local time (19:19 GMT)  
  • At least two people were killed outside the building and one person was killed in the street. 
  • The fire alarm went off inside the school.
  • The gunman entered one of the school buildings where, according to police, he continued his shooting rampage with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle. 
  • He eventually fled the scene. 
  • The suspected gunman was later taken into custody in a neighbouring town. According to police, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz confessed to carrying out the shooting. He has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. 
  • Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters that an armed police deputy who was assigned to the school arrived at the building where the shooting took place about 90 seconds after the first shots were fired. The deputy then stood outside for four minutes while the rampage continued inside. According to Israel, the shooting lasted for a total of six minutes. 
  • “I am devastated,” Israel told reporters. “Stick to my stomach; he never went in.”
  • The shooting took place in the town of Parkland. It is about an hour drive from Miami in southeast Florida. 
  • Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is a public school with about 3,000 students. 

How many people were killed? 

  • At least 17 people were killed, including 14 students and three adults who worked at the school. 
  • Three people were killed outside the school, while 12 were shot dead inside one of the buildings. Two died from their injuries at the hospital. 
  • The school’s American football coach and athletic director are among the dead.
  • At least 15 others were injured.  

Who is Nikolas Cruz?

  • The suspect has been identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. 
  • He was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday morning. 
  • According to police documents, he admitted to the shooting. 
  • Police say Cruz was armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle and carried “multiple” magazines with him. He was also equipped with a gas mask and smoke grenades. 
  • According to officials, Cruz was expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for disciplinary issues. They did not specify when he was expelled or the specifics of his expulsion. He was enrolled in a different high school, local reports said. 
  • Officials have begun going through Cruz’s social media accounts and have found “disturbing” posts. 
  • We have already begun to dissect his websites and things on social media that he was on and some of the things… are very, very disturbing,” Sheriff Scott Israel said late on Wednesday. 
  • Police said they are investigating possible links between Cruz and a white supremacist group in Florida.  
  • The FBI acknowledged that it did not follow its own investigative procedures after it failed to act on a tip about Cruz. In January, the agency received a report from “a person close” to Cruz, who said the 19-year-old displayed a “desire to kill people”, “erratic behaviour” and “disturbing social media posts”. 
  • According to local media, the FBI was warned about a post on YouTube last September by someone with the name Nikolas Cruz that said: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter”. A video blogger alerted the FBI to the comment and was then questioned by the agency. Local reports said the FBI did not alert local police about the comment. Investigators are trying to determine the true identity of the individual who posted the comment.

‘I just ran’: What have witnesses said?

  • A number of unverified videos from inside the school at the time of the shooting have been circulating on social media. 
  • In one video, people are screaming “Oh my God!” as gunshots rang out. 
  • Students at the school have described the “chaotic” scene to local media. 
  • “I just ran. I had my book bag on my back, just in case I got shot in the back,” one student told CNN. 
  • “I saw some bodies. It wasn’t good,” another student told West Palm Beach’s WPTV.
  • “We hear bullets coming closer and closer to us, and then we just hear kids screaming,” a ninth-grade student told Miami’s WPLG news station. “This teacher was apparently trying to help a student and got shot,” the student added.  

What have officials said?

  • Florida Governor Rick Scott said the shooting was “absolutely pure evil”. He also said there was “a time” to talk about gun control when questioned by reporters on Wednesday. 
  • US President Donald Trump offered his condolences to the families of the victims. He said: “No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school”. 
  • Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy spoke in front of the Senate shortly after the shooting, saying Congress is “responsible for the level of mass atrocity that happens to this country with zero parallel anywhere else”. He added: “As a parent, it scares me to death that this body doesn’t take serious the safety of my children.”

What are others saying?

  • Online, the shooting renewed calls for stricter gun control in the country. #GunControlNow trended worldwide after news of the shooting broke, with many criticising politicians for what they said was a failure to act on gun violence. Others pointed to the use of the AR-15 rifle in a number of mass shootings around the country. 
  • Students across the country have organised near-daily protests against gun violence. Major marches and walkouts are scheduled for March. 
  • Many have also rejected Trump’s suggestion to arm teachers who are “adept at firearms”, saying teachers are meant to teach, not meant to carry guns. 


What has Trump proposed? 

  • Trump, who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) during the 2016 presidential election, said after the shooting that he would be in favour of stricter background checks for gun buyers. 
  • He also called for a ban on bump stocks, a device that allows semiautomatic rifles to fire at the rate of a machine gun. 
  • Despite widespread criticism, he has stood by his suggestion that “gun-adept teachers with military or special training experience”.
  • Many teachers have blasted the proposal on Twitter, saying arming teachers would result in damaging consequences.
  • Politicians have also slammed the suggestion to arm teachers. Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson told CNN it is a “terrible idea”. Nelson’s colleague, who is from Trump’s Republican party, also said the idea has “practical problems” and that it is “not something … [he is] comfortable with”. 
  • Trump also said he favours raising the minimum age to buy guns to 21. In several states, including Florida, the minimum age to buy a gun is 18 years old. 

What has the NRA said?

  • NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre has accused gun control advocates of politicising the Florida shooting to “eliminate the Second Amendment”. He echoed Trump’s call to arm teachers. 
  • LaPierre’s comments were slammed by Democrats and others as “pathetic”. 
  • As a result of the NRA’s response to the shooting, more than a dozen companies have cut ties with the NRA.
  • On Sunday, NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch told ABC news that “the NRA doesn’t support any ban”. She was responding to a question about Trump’s call to ban bump stocks. 

What major protests are planned? 

  • Students across the country have organised near-daily protests to demand stricter gun control laws. They are also planning larger marches and walkouts for March. 
  • March 14 – National School Walkout: Nationwide walkout, supported by those who planned the Women’s March, will take place on March 14 for 17 minutes at 10am across every timezone. 
  • March 24 – March For Our Lives: Students and their families across the US are organising a protest in Washington, DC, as well as in cities nationwide, to “demand that safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today”. 
  • April 20: National High School Walk-Out for Anti-Gun Violence: Students are planning a school walkout on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting, in which 13 people were killed. Students are being asked to wear orange to tell politicians that the “time to act is now”.  

Source: Al Jazeera