PARKLAND, Fla. — An orphaned 19-year-old with a troubled past and an AR-15 rifle was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder Thursday morning after being questioned for hours by state and federal authorities following the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in five years. Fifteen wounded survivors were hospitalized as bodies were recovered from inside and around Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Just before gunfire broke out, some students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School thought they were having another fire drill.
Such an exercise had forced them to leave their classrooms hours earlier. So when the alarm went off Wednesday afternoon shortly before they were to be dismissed, they once again filed out into the hallways.
That’s when, police say, Nikolas Cruz, equipped with a gas mask, smoke grenades and multiple magazines of ammunition, opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon, killing 17 people, injuring many, and sending hundreds of students fleeing into the streets. It was the nation’s deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago.
A law enforcement source said the suspect appears to have pulled the school fire alarm, causing chaos, then started shooting
Authorities offered no immediate details about Cruz or his possible motive, except to say he’d been kicked out of the high school, which has about 3,000 students. Students who knew him described a volatile teenager whose strange behavior had caused others to end friendships with him.
Cruz’s mother, Lynda Cruz, died of pneumonia on Nov. 1 neighbors, friends and family members said, according to the Sun Sentinel. Cruz and her husband, who died of a heart attack several years ago, adopted Nikolas and his biological brother, Zachary, after the couple moved from Long Island in New York to Broward County.