Like every other Valentine’s day.. It began with a right frame of mind, students were seen with handmade love cookies made for their teachers and classmates
But by the end of the day, 17 people would be dead, allegedly killed by a former student, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who had been expelled from the school for unspecified disciplinary reasons. The mass shooting is at least the eighth episode involving gun death or injury at a US school this year.
Terrified teenagers huddled together with their teachers in classrooms, closets and bathrooms as the gunman, armed with smoke grenades, a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle, and wearing a gas mask, moved from room to room, opening fire indiscriminately.
Aaron Feis, a football coach and security guard, is said to have stepped directly into the path of the bullets to protect his students. According to reports in the Miami Herald, he fell to the ground as a female student he was shielding screamed into her cellphone on a call with her mother. It was not immediately clear if the coach had survived the shooting. Late on Wednesday, several victims were still undergoing surgery and fighting for their lives in Broward county hospitals.
It was, in the words of Scott Israel, the sheriff of Broward county, simply “another horrific day, a detestable day … I’m absolutely sick to my stomach to see children who go to school with backpacks and pencils lose their lives”.
The massacre began at about 2.30pm, close to dismissal time, when the killer entered the campus and set off the alarm.
It was the second fire alarm of the day, students said. The first had been a planned drill but the second siren alerted some that something was not right.
Staff shouted at their students to get into classrooms quickly as the shooter began his killing spree. Some teachers immediately slammed their classroom doors shut and instructed students to hide by the walls.
Children used their cellphones to text parents and livestream images, some of the videos featuring chaos and screaming. One girl told a local television news crew that she saw a teacher shot dead in front of her as he tried to lock the classroom door. It remained open as the killer passed on by in the hallway.
After the rampage was over, the gunman was seen leaving the high school and heading towards Westglades middle school, which shares a campus with Stoneman Douglas.
From there he disappeared, but police quickly apprehended Cruz at a house in Coral Springs, about a mile away, after he was identified by a teacher.
“There was no confrontation. He was taken into arrest without incident,” Israel said, adding that Cruz had “countless” magazines of ammunition with him.
Investigators who looked at Cruz’s social media pages on Wednesday found things that were “very, very disturbing”, Israel said without elaboration. By nightfall, Cruz was under interrogation by FBI agents and detectives at Broward police headquarters.
Cruz, who had worked at a Dollar Tree store close to the high school after his expulsion, was described by students as a disturbed young man who often spoke about violence and guns.
Source: The guardian