Trump says nation prays with 'heavy heart'

PARKLAND, Fla. - 11:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump says Wednesday's mass shooting turned a Florida school into a "scene of terrible violence, hatred and evil."

Trump is addressing the nation a day after the shooting that killed at least 17 people. The president was silent on the issue of gun control. Earlier Thursday, he suggested the suspect was "mentally disturbed."

Trump says the entire nation "with one heavy heart" is praying for the victims and their families.

An orphaned 19-year-old with a troubled past and his own AR-15 rifle was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder Thursday morning following the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in five years.

10:55 a.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says he'll sit down with state leaders and work on how they can make sure people with mental illness aren't able to get guns.

Scott spoke Thursday a day after a shooting left 17 people dead at a high school. He said leaders will look at how they can make sure something like that never happens again.

FBI agent Rob Lasky says the FBI investigated a 2017 YouTube comment that said "I'm going to be a professional school shooter"; but the agency couldn't identify the person making the comment.

Nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the Wednesday afternoon shooting in Parkland, Florida.

10:10 a.m.

Kentucky's Republican governor says he's heartbroken over a school shooting in Florida that killed 17 just weeks after a similar shooting at a high school in his state.

Gov. Matt Bevin told talk radio hosts his heart is truly broken for the people of Florida and the community has been shattered in a similar way that Kentucky was in January. He said guns are not the reason for increase in school shootings, but blamed a culture that delegitimizes life through violent video games, TV shows and music lyrics.

Bevin called video games where people kill others "garbage" and said "it's the same as pornography." He said "freedom of speech" has been abused by allowing things that are "filthy and disgusting and have no redeemable value."

Nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the Wednesday afternoon shooting in Parkland, Florida.

8:30 a.m.

A law enforcement official is telling The Associated Press that a former student who killed 17 people at a Florida school legally purchased his AR-15 rifle about a year ago.

The official is familiar with the investigation into the school shooting but not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

RELATED: Suspect's ‘disturbing' social media posts being dissected

Federal law allows people 18 and over to legally purchase long guns. At 21, people can legally buy handguns from a licensed dealer.

7:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump says it appears the suspect in Florida's deadly school shooting was "mentally disturbed."

RELATED: Suspect in Florida school shooting due in court Thursday

Trump tweeted Thursday about the shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school. A former student opened fire Wednesday with an AR-15 rifle, killing 17 people. The 19-year-old was charged Thursday morning.

Trump says: "So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!"

The president offered sympathy in another tweet Wednesday and said he spoke with Florida's governor, but he has not addressed the nation.

Trump has cited mental health before as a cause for mass shootings, dismissing questions about gun control.

7:30 a.m.

Grief counselors are being made available to students and staff after a mass shooting at their Florida high school killed 17 people and left 14 others hospitalized with wounds and injuries.

The Broward County school district says counseling will be offered at five locations for anyone affected by Wednesday afternoon's shooting. But Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, now a crime scene, will remain closed through the President's Day weekend.

RELATED: Suspect's ‘disturbing' social media posts being dissected

The suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He was arrested about two miles from the school shortly after the shooting and initially taken to a hospital with breathing problems. Cruz was questioned overnight and booked into the Broward County Jail early Thursday.

7:05 a.m.

The 19-year-old suspect in a deadly school shooting in Florida has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Nikolas Jacob Cruz was booked into the Broward County Jail early Thursday, still wearing the hospital gown he was given after being treated for labored breathing following his arrest. He was later questioned overnight before being booked into jail.

RELATED: Superintendent honoring Teacher of the Year minutes before Florida school shooting

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said Cruz was a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, which is a suburb of Fort Lauderdale. He is accused of entering the campus just before school was dismissed on Wednesday afternoon and opening fire on students and teachers.

Officials said another 14 people have been treated at area hospitals.

Cruz, who is listed at 5-foot-7 and 131-pounds, is being held without bond. Jail records don't list an attorney for him.

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(Original Story)

Just before the shooting broke out, some students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School thought they were having another fire drill.

Such an exercise had forced them to leave their classrooms hours earlier. So when the alarm went off Wednesday afternoon shortly before they were to be dismissed, they once again filed out into the hallways.

That’s when police say 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, equipped with a gas mask, smoke grenades and multiple magazines of ammunition, opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon, killing 17 people and sending hundreds of students fleeing into the streets. It was the nation’s deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago.

RELATED: Teacher hid 19 students in a closet when a gunman opened fire

“Our district is in a tremendous state of grief and sorrow,” said Robert Runcie, superintendent of the school district in Parkland, about an hour’s drive north of Miami. “It is a horrible day for us.”

Authorities offered no immediate details about Cruz or his possible motive, except to say that he had been kicked out of the high school, which has about 3,000 students. Students who knew him described a volatile teenager whose strange behavior had caused others to end friendships with him.

Cruz’s mother Lynda Cruz died of pneumonia on Nov. 1 neighbors, friends and family members said, according to the Sun Sentinel . Cruz and her husband, who died of a heart attack several years ago, adopted Nikolas and his biological brother, Zachary, after the couple moved from Long Island in New York to Broward County.

The boys were left in the care of a family friend after their mother died, family member Barbara Kumbatovich, of Long Island, said.

Unhappy there, Nikolas Cruz asked to move in with a friend’s family in northwest Broward. The family agreed and Cruz moved in around Thanksgiving. According to the family’s lawyer, who did not identify them, they knew that Cruz owned the AR-15 but made him keep it locked up in a cabinet. He did have the key, however.

Jim Lewis said the family is devastated and didn’t see this coming. They are cooperating with authorities, he said. 

RELATED: Interactive story map details school shootings in U.S. in 2018

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

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

Cruz was taken into custody without a fight about an hour after the shooting in a residential neighborhood about a mile away. He had multiple magazines of ammunition, authorities said.

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

RELATED: Photos, videos shared on social media of Florida high school shooting

Frantic parents rushed to the school to find SWAT team members and ambulances surrounding the huge campus and emergency workers who appeared to be treating the wounded on sidewalks. Students who hadn’t run began leaving in a single-file line with their hands over their heads as officers urged them to evacuate quickly.

Law enforcement officers block off a street following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Parkland, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Hearing loud bangs as the shooter fired, many of the students inside hid under desks or in closets, and barricaded doors.

“We were in the corner, away from the windows,” said freshman Max Charles, who said he heard five gunshots. “The teacher locked the door and turned off the light. I thought maybe I could die or something.”

As he was leaving the building, he saw four dead students and one dead teacher. He said he was relieved when he finally found his mother.

RELATED: Interactive story map details school shootings in U.S. in 2018

“I was happy that I was alive,” Max said. “She was crying when she saw me.”

Noah Parness, a 17-year-old junior, said he and the other students calmly went outside to their fire-drill areas when he suddenly heard popping sounds.

“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.”

Most of the fatalities were inside the building, though some victims were found fatally shot outside, the sheriff said.

Sen. Bill Nelson told CNN that Cruz had pulled the fire alarm “so the kids would come pouring out of the classrooms into the hall.”

“And there the carnage began,” said Nelson, who said he was briefed by the FBI.

The scene was reminiscent of the Newtown attack, which shocked even a country numbed by the regularity of school shootings. The Dec. 14, 2012, assault at Sandy Hook Elementary School killed 26 people: 20 first-graders and six staff members. The 20-year-old gunman, who also fatally shot his mother in her bed, then killed himself.

Not long after Wednesday’s attack in Florida, Michael Nembhard was sitting in his garage on a cul-de-sac when he saw a young man in a burgundy shirt walking down the street. In an instant, a police cruiser pulled up, and officers jumped out with guns drawn.

“All I heard was ‘Get on the ground! Get on the ground!’” Nembhard said. He said Cruz did as he was told.

The school was to be closed for the rest of the week.

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