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School shooting suspect charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder

Posted at 5:45 AM, Feb 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-15 04:43:27-05

PARKLAND, FL (RNN) – A former student was arrested Wednesday after the sheriff said he killed 17 people and wounded at least 15 more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

The suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday after being questioned for hours by authorities, according to CNN.

One of the victims was identified by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School's football Twitter account as assistant football coach Aaron Feis, who also worked as a security guard at the school.

"He selflessly shielded students from the shooter when he was shot. He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories,"the football program stated on Twitter.

The coach's death was confirmed by Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, the Miami Herald reported. 

Cruz allegedly used an AR-15-style weapon to shoot adults and students at the school. He had several magazines on him.

Twelve of the victims were shot inside the building, two were shot outside and one was killed on the road next to the school, according to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.

Two more victims died at a hospital.

"This is a terrible day," Israel said. "It's catastrophic."

Investigators are working to identify the victims. Israel said none will be publicly identified until all their families have been notified.

Fifteen others were wounded in the attack and taken to area hospitals.

Authorities identified Cruz after watching school security video. He was arrested in a nearby neighborhood in Coral Springs, FL.

At the time of his arrest, Cruz exhibited labored breathing and was taken to a hospital as a precaution.

Douglas High will be closed for the remainder of the week, said Robert Runcie, superintendent of Broward County Public Schools. Counselors will be available for students and teachers beginning Thursday morning.

Runcie said the suspect was enrolled at a school in the school system at the time of the shooting.

Attorney General Pam Bondi said the state of Florida is prepared to pay for the funerals of all the deceased victims and pay for counseling for all the survivors.

Deputies responded to the scene after shots were reported around the school’s dismissal time of 3 p.m. ET. Students told media that they heard the fire alarm go off about 10 minutes before school let out.

The students then fled back inside the building as the shooting began, while others ran to nearby businesses.

Responding deputies encountered hundreds of students fleeing the school. Investigators said Cruz had concealed himself in the crowd and was among those running out.

Parents attempted to reach some of their children as police and tactical teams swept through the school, going building to building and clearing each room.

"I am sitting here in my car in this traffic jam just like, 'I wish my car could fly at the moment,'" said Simone Kuffner, whose son Shawn attends the high school.

Lissette Rozenblet told CNN her daughter evacuated to a nearby Walmart along with other students. Some parents said they were scared to call or text their children in case their phones were not on silent, afraid that a noise would alert the gunman to their child's presence.

A freshman at the school who also fled to the Walmart, Geovanni Vilsant, told the Miami Herald he saw at least three bodies on the ground as he fled the first floor of the building where the shooting began.

"There was blood everywhere. They weren't moving," he said.

Teacher Melissa Falkowski told CNN she managed to put 19 students in a closet when the shooting began.

"We got maybe 15 to 20 steps out of the classroom, and we were told we were on 'Code Red,' and we ran back inside to the classroom and got them crouched down on the floor," she said. "And then we moved into the closet, and we were hidden in the closet."

President Donald Trump issued a statement about the shooting on Twitter.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted shortly after the shooting was reported, assuring the public that he was aware of the situation and that he was in contact with local authorities.

"How could this ever happen in this country? How could this ever happen in this state?" Scott said during a news conference with authorities Wednesday night. "This is just absolutely pure evil."

Scott ordered state flags lowered to honor the victims.

The FBI is investigating the shooting.

Parkland is a city of about 30,000 people, about 15 miles northwest of Fort Lauderdale, FL. The public high school has an enrollment of 3,158 students and serves grades ninth through 12th.

The last reported shooting at a middle or high school in the U.S. was only a few weeks ago, on Feb. 1, at Salvador B. Castro Middle School in downtown Los Angeles, according to the Associated Press.

A 12-year-old girl was arrested after a gun she'd brought to school accidentally went off and injured four students.

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