A gunman unleashed horror at his former high school in South Florida on Wednesday, authorities said, slaughtering at least 17 unsuspecting students and adults and leaving the country asking why another school massacre has happened yet again.
The suspect, Nikolas Cruz, 19, gunned down victims with a rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland shortly before 3 p.m. after he allegedly activated a fire alarm, sending people outside unaware of what was to come, officials said.
He fired shot after shot outside and then followed others running back inside the building, where people who’d heard the shots were taking shelter, officials said.
There, he roamed the halls he knew so well, allegedly targeting those huddled in classrooms and then blending in with the students and staff evacuating the school. He was arrested in the neighboring community of Coral Springs later in the day, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said.
Cruz had once been expelled from the high school over disciplinary problems, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said, without providing specifics.
The young man now stands accused of committing one of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern US history. He has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, the sheriff’s office said.
“This has been a day where we’ve seen the worst of humanity. Tomorrow is gonna bring out the best in humanity as we come together to move forward from this unspeakable tragedy,” Runcie said.
Former classmates said they were not surprised at the identity of the suspected shooter. Cruz loved showing off guns, student Eddie Bonilla told CNN affiliate WFOR.
“We actually, a lot of kids threw jokes around Iike that, saying that he’s the one to shoot up the school, but it turns out everyone predicted it. It’s crazy,” Bonilla recalled.
Alex Azar also said he remembered Cruz.
“He always seemed like the unstable type, the type who would do this sort of thing,” Azar told WFOR. “He was always in trouble. … He had that look to him, kind of sinister.”
Investigators identified Cruz from school security videos before arresting him in Coral Springs, according to police.
His first court appearance was expected Thursday afternoon.
Just before gunshots erupted, the fire alarm blared.
At first, students were confused because there had been a fire drill earlier that day. Investigators believe the suspect pulled the fire alarm to draw people out of classrooms and increase the number of casualties, a law enforcement source told CNN
When some students and teachers rushed out of the building, the massacre began. Others scurried back into classrooms as the school went into code red, signaling an active shooter.
Some texted goodbyes to loved ones, fearful they wouldn’t make it out alive. Others posted social media…