Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

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Stoneman Douglas High School shooting
Part of school shootings in the United States
MarjoryStonemanDouglasHS 22Jun2008 (cropped).jpg
The Pine Island Road entrance to Stoneman Douglas High School in 2008

Stoneman Douglas High School is located in Florida

Stoneman Douglas High School
Stoneman Douglas High School
Stoneman Douglas High School (Florida)
Location Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
5901 Pine Island Road
Parkland, Florida, U.S.
Coordinates 26.3053°N 80.2683°WCoordinates26.3053°N 80.2683°W(shooting)
26.2897°N 80.2871°W(arrest)[note 1]
Date February 14, 2018
2:21 p.m. – 2:27 p.m. (EST, UTC−5)
Attack type
School shootingmass shooting
Weapons AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle(Smith & Wesson M&P15)
Deaths 17
Non-fatal injuries
14
Suspected perpetrator
Nikolas Jacob Cruz
Charges 17 counts of capital murder

On the afternoon of February 14, 2018, a mass shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in the Miami metropolitan area. Seventeen people were killed and fourteen more were taken to hospitals, making it one of the world’s deadliest school massacres.[2][3] The suspected perpetrator, 19-year-old Nikolas Jacob Cruz, was arrested shortly afterward and confessed, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.[4] He was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

In September 2017, the FBI learned that a “nikolas cruz” had posted a YouTube comment, “Im going to be a professional school shooter”, but the agency could not identify the commenter. In January 2018, its hotline received another tip, which alleged that Cruz had made a death threat. Due to an error, the FBI’s Miami field office was not notified of the threat.

Police and prosecutors have not yet established a motive for the rampage and are looking into “a pattern of disciplinary issues and unnerving behavior”.[5]Some of the students who survived the shooting became gun control activists and founded the advocacy group Never Again MSD.

Shooting[edit]

The shooting took place during the afternoon of February 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The suspected shooter, Nikolas Cruz, requested an Uber ride and was dropped off at the school at 2:19 p.m. EST.[6] He was carrying a backpack and a long bag.

Cruz entered the “freshman building”,[note 2] a three-story structure containing 30 classrooms typically occupied by about 900 students and 30 teachers.[7] He activated a fire alarm while he was armed with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle and multiple magazines, and began shooting indiscriminately at students and teachers.[8][9][10] He had purchased the rifle legally from a nearby Coral Springs gun store in February 2017.[11] At approximately 2:21, near dismissal time, staff members heard gunfire and activated a “code red” lockdown.[12][13][14] An armed school resource officer heard the gunfire, rushed to the building but never went inside — instead waiting outside for another four agonizing minutes as Cruz continued the slaughter.[15][16]

The shooting lasted six minutes,[17] after which Cruz ditched his rifle on the 3rd floor of the building and left the scene by blending in with fleeing students. He walked to a Walmart, where he purchased a soda at its Subway restaurant. He then walked to a McDonald’s and lingered before leaving on foot at 3:01.[6] At about 3:40 p.m., he was stopped by a police officer in Coral Springs—two miles from the school—and taken into custody without incident.[18][1][19] He was taken to a hospital emergency room with “labored breathing”,[note 3] released after 40 minutes, then booked into the Broward County Jail.[4][20]

School surveillance camera footage was used to confirm Cruz as the perpetrator.[21][22]

Victims[edit]

Fourteen students and three staff members were killed and many others wounded or injured, including at least 14 who were taken to area hospitals.[23][24][25] Three people remained in critical condition the next day[26] and one the day after that.[27] Of those killed, twelve died in the school, two just outside the school buildings, one on the street, and two at the hospital.[23] The dead were:[28]

  • Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
  • Scott Beigel, 35
  • Martin Duque, 14
  • Nicholas Dworet, 17
  • Aaron Feis, 37
  • Jaime Guttenberg, 14
  • Chris Hixon, 49
  • Luke Hoyer, 15
  • Cara Loughran, 14
  • Gina Montalto, 14
  • Joaquin Oliver, 17
  • Alaina Petty, 14
  • Meadow Pollack, 18
  • Helena Ramsay, 17
  • Alex Schachter, 14
  • Carmen Schentrup, 16
  • Peter Wang, 15

Scott Beigel, a geography teacher at the school, was shot dead after he unlocked a classroom for students to hide; some students survived because the gunman did not enter the classroom.[29][30] Aaron Feis was an assistant football coach and security guard at the school; he was shot and killed as he shielded two students.[31] Chris Hixon, the school’s athletic director, was killed as he ran toward the sound of the gunfire.[32]

Fifteen-year-old Peter Wang was last seen in his Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) uniform holding open doors so others could get out quicker. He was called a hero and many called to bury him with full military honors.[33][34] He, Alaina Petty, and Martin Duque were all posthumously honored by the U.S. Army with the ROTC Medal for Heroism at their funerals, and Wang was buried in his JROTC Blues uniform. On February 20, he was awarded a rare posthumous admission to the United States Military Academy.[35]

Nikolas Cruz[edit]

Broward County Sheriff’s Office mugshot of Cruz

The suspected shooter was identified as Nikolas Jacob Cruz, a 19-year-old former student at the school.[36][37] Cruz was born on September 24, 1998, in Margate, Florida,[38] and was adopted at age two.[39] His adoptive father died during his childhood. His adoptive mother died at age 68 in November 2017.[40] He had been living with relatives and friends since her death.[41]

Cruz was a member of the JROTC and had received multiple awards for outstanding academic performance. He was also a member of his school’s varsity air rifle team.[42][43] In attempts to deal with his behavior issues, he was transferred between schools six times in three years.[44]

In 2014, he was transferred to a school for children with emotional or learning disabilities, and returned to Stoneman Douglas High School two years later.[44] The Florida Department of Children and Families investigated him in September 2016 for Snapchat posts in which he cut both his arms and said he planned to buy a gun. State investigators reported Cruz had depression, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. They assessed that he was not a risk.[45] He had previously been receiving mental health treatment, but stopped going.[42] An email from the school administration had circulated among teachers, warning that Cruz had made threats against other students. This led the school to ban him from wearing a backpack on campus.[46][36][47]

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel described Cruz’s online profiles and accounts as “very, very disturbing”. They contained numerous pictures and posts of him with a variety of weapons, including long knives, a shotgun, a pistol, and a BB gun. Police said Cruz holds “extremist” views and social media accounts believed to be linked to him contain anti-black and anti-Muslimslurs.[42] Cruz’s YouTube videos included comments including “I wanna die Fighting killing shit ton of people”, threats against police officers and Antifa, and that he intended to mimic the University of Texas tower shooting.[48][42][49] He left a comment on another user’s YouTube video on September 24, 2017, stating “Im going to be a professional school shooter”, which prompted the user to report him to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). According to FBI agent Robert Lasky, the FBI was unable to identify the commenter after conducting database reviews and checks.[50][51]

According to CNN, Cruz advocated for the killing of Mexicans, blacks, and gay people. He said that his hate for black people was “simply because they were black”; he referred to white women in interracial relationships as traitors, and he also expressed anti-immigration and antisemitic views.[52]

A former classmate said Cruz had anger management problems and often joked about guns and gun violence, including “shooting up establishments”.[53] A 2016 graduate’s brother described him as “super stressed out all the time and talked about guns a lot and tried to hide his face”.[54] A current student said, “I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him.”[54] A classmate assigned to work with him in sophomore year said, “He told me how he got kicked out of two private schools. He was held back twice. He had aspirations to join the military. He enjoyed hunting.”[42] Cruz also bragged about killing animals. A neighbor said Cruz’s mother would call the police over to the house to try to “talk some sense” into him.[55]

Legal proceedings[edit]

File:N. Cruz court hearing in Florida, February 2018.webm

Cruz’s arraignment (3:02)

At his arraignment before Judge Kim Theresa Mollica on February 15, Cruz was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and ordered held without bond.[56][57]If convicted of capital murder by a jury, he could face the death penalty.[58] According to an affidavit by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, he confessed to the shooting, stating that he brought additional loaded magazines hidden in a backpack.[4][59]

The public defender’s office said he will plead guilty if the death penalty is taken off the table.[60] The chief public defender in Broward County said that it is not yet known if Cruz’s attorneys will seek an insanity defense.[61] Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said she is certain prosecutors will seek the death penalty.[62]

Cruz was placed on suicide watch in an isolation cell after the arraignment.[63]

Aftermath[edit]

Pavement markings at a California vigil for the students of Stoneman Douglas High

The Broward County sheriff, Scott Israel, visiting one of the victims at a hospital four days after the attack

First responders established a triage tent outside the school.[24] The school district provided grief counseling to students and their families. Additionally, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said costs of funerals and counseling would be covered by the state.[64]

At least three counties of Florida and Virginia increased police presence at schools on February 15 in response to the shooting.[65][66][67] The building where the shooting took place will be torn down.[68]

The school resource officer who did not attempt to engage Cruz, a sheriff’s deputy, was later suspended without pay and tendered his resignation. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said that “[the deputy] was absolutely on campus for this entire event” and that he should have “went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer”.[69][70]

Political reactions[edit]

First Lady Melania Trump meeting with a shooting victim in the hospital

U.S. President Donald Trump offered his prayers and condolences to the victims’ families, writing, “no child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school”.[71][72] In a televised address to the nation, he mentioned school safety and mental health issues.[73] Florida Governor Rick Scott ordered flags at state buildings to be flown at half-staff in the state of Florida,[74]and Trump later ordered flags be flown at half-staff for the entire country.[75] Two days after the shooting, Trump and his wife Melania paid a one-hour visit to the victims’ hospital, congratulating physicians and posing with staff for photos.[76] On February 22, Trump met with students and others at the White House for a “listening session.” Trump suggested arming up to 20% of the teachers to stop “maniacs” from attacking students. The following day Trump called a “gun free” school a “magnet” for criminals and tweeted, “Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!”[77] [78]

BBC News characterized Republican politicians’ reactions as focusing on mental health issues while dodging debate on gun control with the reasons that it was either “too political or too soon”. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said that this was the time to “step back and count our blessings” instead of “taking sides and fighting each other politically”.[79] Florida Senator Marco Rubio said that “most” proposals on stricter gun laws “would not have prevented” this shooting nor “any of those [shootings] in recent history” and that lawmakers should take action with “focus on the violence part” alongside guns.[80]

Al Hoffman Jr., a prominent Florida GOP political donor, pledged to no longer fund legislative groups or candidates who were not actively working to ban sales of military-style assault weapons to civilians. “For how many years now have we been doing this – having these experiences of terrorism, mass killings – and how many years has it been that nothing’s been done?” Hoffman said.[81]

The Alliance for Securing Democracy alleged Russian bot accounts used Twitter to inflame tensions by posting loaded comments that support or oppose gun control to divide Americans.[82][83] It said other Russia-linked accounts have labelled the shooting as a false flag operation which the U.S. government will exploit to seize guns from citizens.[84]

 

FBI handling of information[edit]

On January 5, 2018, the FBI‘s Public Access Line (PAL) received a tip from a person who was close to Cruz. On February 16 (two days after the shooting), the agency released a statement that detailed this information. According to the statement, “The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.” After conducting an investigation, the FBI said the PAL did not follow protocol when the information was not forwarded to the Miami Field Office where investigative steps would have been taken.[107][108] The FBI opened a probe into the tip line’s operations.[109]

Conspiracy theories[edit]

Right-wing conspiracy theories circulated after the Stoneman shooting, including false claims that the shooting never happened, or that it was staged by “crisis actors“.[110][111][112] For example, Benjamin A. Kelly, a district secretary for Republican state Rep. Shawn Harrison, sent an email to the Tampa Bay Times saying “[b]oth kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen.”[110] The “kids” in the picture were actually students at Stoneman Douglas High School who were interviewed by CNN; the backlash caused Kelly to be fired hours later.[110] Former GOP congressman and CNN contributor Jack Kingston suggested student demonstrators were paid by billionaire George Soros or were supported by members of Antifa.[110] Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and guitarist Ted Nugentsignaled suspicions that something was “not right” with the student demonstrators, implying they were crisis actors.[110] A video espousing a conspiracy theory that Stoneman student David Hogg was a crisis actor reached No. 1 on YouTube’s trending page before it was removed by the company.[113]

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