On Wednesday—February 14—a gunman with an assault rifle known as an AR-15 killed 17 or more at the Florida high school from which he was expelled last year. The death count comes from the sheriff of the county, Scott Israel. According to reports, twelve died inside the school, and 3 died outside of it. Two people died later at an area hospital.
In addition to the tragic deaths, fifty people or more were also injured in the shooting.
According to authorities, the school shooting occurred in Parkland, Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and started around 2:25 in the afternoon—shortly before dismissal.
The alleged gunman, Nikolas Cruz, was arrested by police and SWAT teams roughly two hours after the shooting in Coral Springs. He is 19 years old. When he went on his killing spree, he reportedly had what has been described as “countless” magazines for his assault rifle.
In the hours since the shooting, it has come out that the high school’s administration was suspicious of Nikolas—and so were his former classmates.
Students who had once been classmates with Nikolas said that he would often express his passion for guns on the social media platform Instagram, and they actually feared the young man was capable of doing exactly what he did on Valentine’s Day.
His Instagram account is full of posts that are very troubling indeed. One appears to be Nikolas with his face covered; another shows off his weapon collection.
There are images of him with a pistol. There is another with him in possession of knives. The captions are disturbing and employ profanity that we will not repeat here.
One of the more disturbing pictures is of a target that appears to have bullet holes in it. The most disturbing part of the image are the words underneath the target. The picture dates back to 2015.
In 2016, he asked for advice online, as he wanted to purchase a Maverick 88 Slug. He wanted to do so, he said, for “hunting”, and told those from whom he was seeking advice that he intended to put a scope on the weapon—for accuracy.
One student who knew the suspected killer claimed that Nikolas had been abusive towards his ex-girlfriend, and it was his fight with the ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend that might have led to his being expelled from the high school.
An attorney speaking for the family with whom Nikolas had been living stated that Nikolas had already owned his assault rifle—the one allegedly used in the school shooting—when he moved in with the family; it was apparently purchased legally and kept under lock and key in a cabinet. Nikolas, of course, had the key.
One student who claims to know the suspected gunman has said that Nikolas was not only a racist, but also enjoyed killing animals. Specifically, he liked to kill small things, such as frogs and similar animals. The student said that Nikolas has a “crazy mind”.
Another student—Adam Habona—lived next door to Nikolas for several months; he described Nikolas as violent and a loner; Adam alleged that Nikolas would steal from his neighbors as well as throw coconuts at their houses.
Eighteen-year-old Chad Williams, a senior at the high school where the shooting transpired, said that Nikolas had been troubled since middle school. Chad said that Nikolas would set off the fire alarm daily—until he was finally expelled from that school while in the eighth grade. He described Nikolas as an outcast who did not have many friends. While he would do crazy things for a laugh, Chad said, Nikolas was “trouble”.
Chad said he had recently seen Nikolas around the high school carrying publications about firearms. Chad thought Nikolas was at the high school to pick up a sibling.
Nineteen-year-old Jillian Davis, who was in JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) with Nikolas while in the 9th grade, remembered Nikolas as quiet and shy; however, she added that his personality would almost change when he became angry. She also described him as a little “extra quirky” and said there was definitely something a bit off about him.
Jillian has graduated from the high school where the shooting occurred.
One student—Matthew Walker—said that when he learned there was a school shooting, he figured Nikolas was responsible; so did many of his classmates. According to him, students would make joking comments about how Nikolas would be the one who would shoot up the school. He added that everything Nikolas posts on social media is about weapons, describing that as “sick.”
According to Beam Furr, the mayor of Broward County, the alleged shooter had been receiving treatment for a while at a mental health facility, but he hadn’t gone to the facility in over a year. There was definitely concern over him—according to Furr.
However, the school district’s superintendent Robert Runcie said that he was unaware of any threats to the school posed by Nikolas Cruz. According to him, no phone calls or threats were made—at least he is not aware of any.
Jim Gard, a math teacher at the high school, told local media that at one point the school informed staff that Nikolas was not allowed to be on campus with a backpack, as there had been a problem with his threatening students.
One student named Oli used Twitter to discussing knowing the alleged shooter and how it felt to experience the shooting.
The experience sounds like a truly horrifying, heartbreaking one. It is interesting to note that Oli said Nikolas had a “ton” of mental health issues, and Oli genuinely seems to believe that those serious problems were ignored by all of the adults.
Nikolas was examined in a hospital after the shooting, and he is now in a secure location.
We really can’t imagine what it must have been like for the students traumatized by the shooting, or the parents and other relatives of the students who were waiting for news about the safety of their loved ones.
United States President Donald Trump took to Twitter to express his condolences to family members of the victims, adding that no student or teacher should feel unsafe while inside an American school.