Nikolas Cruz tried to blend in with panicked students fleeing the Florida high school he had just opened fire in, killing 17, authorities said late We
Nikolas Cruz tried to blend in with panicked students fleeing the Florida high school he had just opened fire in, killing 17, authorities said late Wednesday.
Cruz concealed himself in the crowd and was seen running out of the school with hundreds of terrified students, authorities said.
Authorities said Cruz was later taken into custody “without incident” by Coconut Creek police in a Coral Springs neighborhood, located just a few miles from the high school itself.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said Cruz, 19, was identified as the only possible gunman after looking at security footage from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Police said Cruz was taken to the hospital because he “exhibited labored breathing.” He was later seen being escorted into Broward Sheriff’s headquarters in a medical robe.
The carnage, however, had already taken its toll.
Noah Parness, 17, told the Associated Press that the fire alarm went off for the second time in the day at around 2:30 p.m. Parness said students were calmly filing out of the school when he suddenly heard several pops.
"Everyone was kind of just standing there calm, and then we saw a bunch of teachers running down the stairway, and then everybody shifted and broke into a sprint," Parness said. "I hopped a fence."
An unidentified student described the gruesome scene in an interview with Fox News.
"The police came through the hallway to get us and in the hallway, I saw a big pile of blood, like, kind of smeared as if they were dragged away, and I saw two girls probably dead in the hallway," she said. "And then, coming down the stairs, there was some more blood and outside the building there was another guy – I think it was a teacher – who was, [I’m] pretty sure was dead."
The motive behind the massacre was not immediately clear. Lawmakers and officials suggested the shooting may have been planned.
Sheriff Scott Israel, from Broward County, said at an evening news conference that the suspect carried an AR-15 rifle and had “countless magazines.” He did not specify how many rounds were fired.
"It's catastrophic. There really are no words," Israel said.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told Fox News that Cruz was wearing a gas mask and may have had smoke bombs during the rampage.
Nelson said in a separate interview with CNN that Cruz used the fire alarm “so the kids would come pouring out of the classrooms into the hall.”
After speaking with authorities, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, said in a tweet “it is clear attack was designed & executed to maximize loss of life.”