The main accused of opening fire at a Florida high school on Wednesday, killing 17 people, was a troubled former student who loved guns and was expelled for disciplinary reasons, police and former classmates said.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, was arrested about an hour after a shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters.
The sheriff's office earlier spelled the suspect's name as Nikolaus.
Cruz, who had been expelled from the school for reasons that have not been made public, was found with multiple ammunition magazines and one AR-15-style rifle, Israel said.
"We already began to dissect his websites and the things on social media that he was on and some of the things that came to mind are very, very disturbing," Israel said.
Chad Williams, 18, a senior at Stoneman Douglas High school, remembered Cruz as a troubled classmate from when they attended middle school together. He said Cruz would set off the fire alarm, day after day, and finally got expelled in the eighth grade.
More recently, Williams saw Cruz carrying several publications about guns when they ran into each other at the high school. Williams thought Cruz was there to pick up a younger sibling.
"He was crazy about guns," Williams told Reuters, speaking by the side of the road near the high school. "He was kind of an outcast. He didn't have many friends. He would do anything crazy for a laugh, but he was trouble."
Jillian Davis, 19, said she was in a school Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps with Cruz in the 9th grade. She remembered him as a quiet and shy young man who would almost change personality when angry. He talked a lot about guns and knives but no one took him seriously, she told Reuters.
"I would say he was not the most normal or sane kid in JROTC. He definitely had a little something off about him. He was a little extra quirky," said Davis, who graduated from the school last year.
Math teacher Jim Gard told the Miami Herald that Cruz had been banned from returning to campus while carrying a backpack.
"There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus," Gard told the newspaper in an interview.
Administrators sent an email to teachers warning them about Cruz, Gard told the paper.
Another student at the school told local WSVN-TV that Cruz was known to have guns at home.Top 10 developments of Florida shooting
1. Nikolaus Cruz arrested
The gunman was identified as Nikolaus Cruz, who previously attended the school and was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said, "the gunman surrendered to police without a struggle."
2. Weapons used by Cruz
He was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and had multiple magazines of ammunition. According to CNN, he wore a gas mask, was carrying smoke grenades and set off a fire alarm, prompting students to pour out of their classrooms into the hallways. As a high school freshman, Cruz was part of the US military-sponsored Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corp program at the school. Jillian Davis, 19, a recent graduate and former fellow JROTC member at Stoneman Douglas High, described Cruz as "kind of an outcast" who was known for unruly behaviour at school and was "crazy about guns."
3. 17 dead, over a dozen injured
Twelve of the dead were killed inside the school, two others just outside, one more on the street and two other victims died of their injuries at a hospital. The victims comprised a mixture of students and adults. Authorities at two nearby hospitals told Reuters they were treating 13 survivors for bullet wounds and other injuries, five of whom were listed in critical condition
4. 18th shooting in a US school this year
It was the 18th shooting in a U. S. school so far this year, according to gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. That tally includes suicides and incidents when no one was injured, as well as the January shooting in which a 15-year-old gunman killed two fellow students at a Benton, Kentucky, high school.
5. How it happened
Staff and students told local media that a fire alarm went off around the time the shooting started, sparking chaos as some 3,300 students at the school first headed into hallways before teachers herded them back into classrooms, to seek shelter in closets.
6. Anguished parents check on their children
"It is just absolutely horrifying. I can't believe this is happening," Lissette Rozenblat, whose daughter goes to the school, told CNN. Her daughter called her to say she was safe but the student also told her mother she heard the cries of a person who was shot. Televised images showed dozens of students, their arms in the air, weaving their way between law enforcement officers with heavy weapons and helmets, and large numbers of emergency vehicles including police cars, ambulances and fire trucks.
7. President Trump prays for Florida school shooting victims
United States President Donald Trump on Thursday offered his condolences, following the shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida. "My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school," President Trump wrote on Twitter. Trump also assured the US citizens that a strict action will be taken against the shooter. First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump, too offered her condolences. "My heart is heavy over the school shooting in Florida. Keeping all affected in my thoughts and prayers," she wrote on Twitter.
8. More than 40 “active shooter” episodes in schools have been recorded in the United States since 200
0, according to F.B. I. and news reports. Two 15-year-old students were killed and 18 more people were injured last month in a school in rural Benton, Ky. The shootings have become common enough that many schools, including Douglas High, run annual drills in which students practice huddling in classrooms behind locked doors.
9. Social media grieves for the dead
10. Florida schools and Universities, government pray for Florida victims
The Valentine's Day bloodshed in the Miami suburb of gated communities with palm- and shrub-lined streets was the latest outbreak of gun violence that has become a regular occurrence at schools and college campuses across the United States over the past several years.