A 19-year-old former student opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at a high school in Parkland, Florida, yesterday (February 14th), killing 17 people, including students and teachers, and wounding more than a dozen others, five of them critically, in the third-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. The suspect, identified as Nikolas Cruz, was wearing a gas mask and also had smoke grenades and many magazines of ammunition with him when he set off a fire alarm to draw students out of class shortly before the end of the day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. TV coverage showed students being led out of the school with their hands up in scenes remiscent of the Columbine High School shooting. Cruz was able to escape by blending in with the students as they ran out of the school, but police were able to identify him and took him into custody without a fight in a residential neighborhood about a mile way.
After the gunfire began around 2:30 p.m., students and teachers hid under desks or in closets and barricaded doors, following what they'd been instructed to do in drills. Frantic students texted their parents and some recorded chilling video showing the terrified teenagers as the sounds of rapid gunfire was heard.
Cruz was expelled from school last year for disciplinary reasons. Junior Victoria Olvera told AP he'd gotten into a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, and also said he'd been abusive to his girlfriend. Students described Cruz as being troubled and strange, and said he had a strong interest in guns and other weapons. His social media posts showed him with guns and also included posts about killing animals. Students said that the view of him was that if anyone was going to be a school shooter it would be him. Math teacher Jim Gard told The Miami Herald that he believes the school sent out an email last year warning teachers that Cruz shouldn’t be allowed on campus with a backpack. He said, "There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus."
ABC News said that Cruz was adopted when he was infant. His father, Roger Cruz, died 13 years ago and his mother, Lynda, just died last November of the flu. The Herald said that since his mother's death, Cruz had moved in with a friend’s family. He'd begun working at a dollar store and attending a school for at-risk youth. Broward County Mayor Bean Furr told CNN that Cruz had been getting treatment from a mental health clinic for a time, but hadn't been back for over a year. Helen Pasciolla, a former neighbor of the Cruz family, told the New York Times that Cruz and his brother, who was also adopted, had behavioral problems, and that their mother would sometimes call the police to come and talk to them. She said, "I think she wanted to scare them a little bit." Despite his problems, Cruz was able to pass a background check when he bought the gun he used in yesterday's massacre.