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At least 17 dead in Florida school shooting, one arrested

Students released from a lockdown are overcome with emotion following following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

At least 17 people were killed in a shooting inside a southeastern Florida high school on Wednesday. The suspected gunman was arrested.

Should the number of fatalities hold at 17, it would be the fourth-deadliest school shooting in United States history.

Another 14 people were injured. As of Wednesday night, at least five victims were in life-threatening condition.

“It’s catastrophic,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. “There really are no words.”

The suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was taken into custody. He was a former student at the school and had been expelled for disciplinary reasons.

Cruz was allegedly armed with an assault-style rifle and had numerous magazines.

A motive is unknown.

Cruz, who was allegedly equipped with a gas mask and smoke grenades, set off a fire alarm to draw students out of their classrooms shortly before the school day ended, officials said.

Israel said 12 people were killed inside the school, while two others died outside. One victim was found dead in the street, and two died at a local hospital.

The school has about 2,900 students.

Police in tactical gear were shown on helicopter footage running into what appeared to be a three-story school building.

NBC Miami reported that federal officials from the ATF were responding.

Parkland is located in southeastern Florida, about 40 miles north of Miami.

A student told WSVN that he heard the gunfire but thought it was people popping balloons. In a statement to the station, the school said it was near dismissal when shots were heard.

The school was placed on lockdown, as was a middle school across the street.

Some students exited the building in single-file rows with hands raised overhead to show they carried no weapons. Others held onto other students as they made their way out past helmeted police in camouflage with weapons drawn.

Emergency medical personnel pulled stretchers from the backs of ambulances as police cars surrounded the parking lot. At least one person was seen being wheeled to the ambulance on a gurney.

Both President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Rick Scott were informed of the shooting.

School officials said the school would be closed on Thursday and Friday and that all school activities would be cancelled.

Victoria Olvera, a 17-year-old junior, said Cruz was expelled last school year after a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. She said Cruz had been abusive to his girlfriend.

School officials said Cruz was attending another school in Broward County after his expulsion.

Broward County Mayor Beam Furr said during an interview with CNN that the shooter was getting treatment at a mental health clinic for a while, but that he hadn’t been back to the clinic for more than a year.

“It wasn’t like there wasn’t concern for him,” Furr said.

“We try to keep our eyes out on those kids who aren’t connected … Most teachers try to steer them toward some kind of connections. … In this case, we didn’t find a way to connect with this kid,” Furr said.

Israel said investigators were dissecting the suspect’s social media posts.

“And some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing,” he added without elaborating.

Daniel Huerfano, a student who fled Wednesday’s attack, said he recognized Cruz from an Instagram photo in which Cruz posed with a gun in front of his face. Huerfano recalled Cruz as a shy student and remembered seeing him walking around with his lunch bag.

“He was that weird kid that you see … like a loner,” he added.

Dakota Mutchler, a 17-year-old junior, said he used to be close friends with Cruz but hadn’t seen him in more than a year following his expulsion from school.

“He started progressively getting a little more weird,” Mutchler said.

Mutchler recalled Cruz posting on Instagram about killing animals and said he had talked about doing target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.

“He started going after one of my friends, threatening her, and I cut him off from there,” Mutchler said.

“I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him,” Mutchler said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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