A shooting at a high school in southern Florida left 17 dead and more than a dozen injured Wednesday, according to local law enforcement.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire shortly before 2:40 p.m. at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Cruz, expelled last year for “disciplinary reasons,” came armed with an AR-15 rifle and several magazines, Israel told reporters at a Wednesday night news conference.
A dozen of the 17 victims died inside the school, while two more perished later at an area hospital. Cruz also shot two people outside the building and another victim standing on a nearby street, according to law enforcement. Some five victims were unidentified as of Wednesday night.
“It’s catastrophic,” Israel said on Twitter less than an hour after news of the shooting broke. “There really are no words.”
Investigators began combing through Cruz’s social media profiles Wednesday in search of a motive, uncovering a “very, very disturbing” portrait — including images of the former student holding guns and knives with his face obscured by a black scarf.
“If you are on a website and you know something or you see something. You see a person with rifles and weaponry, you see something that’s not right, you owe it to your family, you owe it to your community, and you owe it to law enforcement to make this a safer nation by calling someone tonight,” Israel said. “You could prevent a major tragedy like this devastation that happened in Parkland tonight.”
President Donald Trump tweeted a statement Wednesday night in support of the victims. “My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting,” he said. “No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”
Cruz remains in police custody after receiving medical treatment Wednesday afternoon. Broward County School District Superintendent Robert Runcie said Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will close for the rest of the week and grief counselors will be made available for students and families.
“Our district is in a tremendous state of grief. We are heartbroken,” Runcie said. “Words cannot express the sorrow that we feel.”
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said the state will cover funeral expenses for the victims and pay for counseling for survivors and affected students. She warned scammers hoping to exploit the tragedy via crowd funding websites like GoFundMe should think twice — as should funeral homes considering “price gouging,” as occurred after the Orlando shooting in June 2016.
“It’s a horrible tragedy and sadly we’ve been through this before,” she said. “We’ve all become part of a club that we never wanted to be apart of.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott shared condolences with reporters Wednesday as he fielded questions about ramping up gun regulations in the wake of the shooting.
“This is a state that is focused on keeping all of our children safe. You come to the conclusion that this is absolute pure evil,” he said. “We’re finding out all the facts. There’s a thorough investigation going on … we’ll learn those things first and we can determine the future and how we make this place safe.”
Israel suggested criminals determined to inflict carnage wouldn’t be deterred by gun control.
“If a person is predisposed to commit such a horrific event, if a person is committed to committing great carnage, there’s not anybody or not a lot law enforcement can do about it,” he said. “The only thing we can do is train very hard. And we do.”