A disgruntled former student killed 17 people when he opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday, authorities say.
It is the deadliest school shooting since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.
It also marked the 18th school shooting of 2018 for the United States.
The suspected gunman — identified by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz — was arrested after fleeing campus.
“This is a terrible day for Parkland, Broward County, the state of Florida and the United States,” Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said at a press conference Wednesday. “It’s just catastrophic. There really are no words.”
“This is just pure evil,” Florida Governor Rick Scott told reporters at a press conference Wednesday evening, where he also pledged “whatever state resources are necessary” to law enforcement or “to help any family member who’s impacted.”
“How could this ever happen in this country? How could this happen in this state?” Scott said, adding that his “prayers are with everybody impacted.”
Here’s what we know so far:
17 people were killed
At least 17 people were killed in the shooting on Wednesday, with 12 slain inside the school, according to Sheriff Israel. Three other victims were shot outside the building and on a nearby street corner, and an additional two victims died at nearby hospitals. Sheriff Israel told CBS and other media that a football coach was among the victims, and added that the son of a deputy sheriff was also shot. According to Israel, five of the 17 victims had still not been identified at 9:30 p.m ET.
Sixteen victims are being treated at local hospitals, according to the Orlando Sentinel, including seven victims at Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale. Of those seven, two were in critical condition and five were stable, a doctor told local reporters. Another another nine victims were taken to Broward Health North Medical Center, of whom three were in critical condition.
A doctor at Broward Health North declined to give information about specific patients’ cases, but predicted a positive outcome. “They’re going to have successful surgeries. They’re going to recover. They’re going to go home,” Igor Nichiporenko told reporters.
Another victim was taken to Broward Health Coral Springs, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie described the shooting as an “unspeakable tragedy” representing “the worst of humanity,” adding in a statement that the school district was cooperating with law enforcement agencies. “No parent should ever have to send their kids to school and have them not return,” Runcie told reporters. “We’ve got to find a way for this to stop.”
Marjory Stoneman will remain closed for the rest of the week, the Broward County Sheriff’s Department announced. Nearby Westglades Middle School will remain open, and grief counselors will be stationed at a number of nearby locations for students, family members, and school faculty and staff.
The suspect has been identified as Nikolas Cruz
The sheriff’s office identified the suspected shooter as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. The suspect — who authorities said was not a current student, but had previously attended the school — was taken into custody Wednesday after being found off campus. Sheriff Israel said Cruz had been expelled from the school for disciplinary reasons, and was described by one former classmate, Nicholas Coke, as a “loner” with “a lot of problems.”
The school was initially placed on lockdown, but started dismissing students as a SWAT team worked on clearing the buildings. Broadcast news footage showed students running from the school building with their hands up.
The FBI said it is working with local law enforcement, and set up a tips page for information or for witnesses to upload photos or videos related to the incident.
The gunman used an AR-15 assault rifle and carried smoke grenades
Israel said that Cruz had one AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle and “multiple magazines” with him. Gunmen in past mass shootings, including Newtown, the 2017 shooting on the Las Vegas strip and the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando have used similar style rifles.
Cruz was also wearing a gas mask and equipped with smoke grenades, which he used to set off a fire alarm “so kids would come pouring out of classrooms and into the hall,” Florida Sen. Bill Nelson told CNN. “And there the carnage began.”
Leaders respond: ‘That terrible day you pray never comes’
President Trump spoke with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who said he will continue receiving updates on the investigation from law enforcement. In a tweet, Trump offered condolences to family members of the victims and said “no child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”
On the other side of the world at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, American figure skating duo Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim dedicated their pairs skating program to the victims of the shooting. “We wanted to skate for the 17 children that died in the Florida shooting,” Scimeca-Knierim said in an interview after their performance.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said he was “devastated” and “saddened” by the deadly shooting, which he called a “clear attack…designed [and] executed to maximize loss of life.” Rubio also said in his statement Wednesday that he hopes authorities can find out in coming hours and days more about how and why the killer carried out the attack. “Today is that terrible day you pray never comes,” Rubio said.