Marjory Stoneman Douglas High was under fire just before school ended Wednesday Feb. 14 by a heavily armed, expelled 19-year-old, leaving 17 people dead.
Nikolas Cruz was identified as the suspect by the Broward County sheriff. Cruz was expelled for “disciplinary reasons.” Special agent Rob Lasky of the FBI Miami field offices said they received a tip in 2017 regarding a message on a YouTube video comment saying, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” The message was signed with the username Nikolas Cruz.
There is also an Instagram account that appears to belong to Cruz. The account has multiple pictures of guns and ammunition, a picture of a holographic laser sight of a gun being pointed at the street and a picture of six guns laid out on a bed captioned “arsenal.” Along with these pictures, there was also a photo of a bloodied corpse of a frog.
Students recalled the terror of the incident.
“People were texting, trying to find out what was going on. Kids were crying; some people were freaking out,” 17-year-old senior Ryan Kadel said. “I’m kind of surprised it happened here, but I’m not really shocked. School shootings happen all the time, and the news just forgets about them.”
Kadel and two dozen students hid in a large closet for 90 minutes in a nearby building. The shooter shot three people outside. Twelve people were found inside the school and two more died of injuries in the hospital.
“It’s a day you pray every day you don’t have to see,” Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said.
Math teacher Jim Gard taught the gunman last year. “He just looked like a regular high school kid. Nothing outstanding. He didn’t act up in class, wasn’t loud or boisterous.”
Ryan Gutierrez, 18, senior, walked to a 7-Eleven that is two miles away right after the shooting so his parents could get him. His younger sister, Nicole, was already with his parents.
“This has been so horrible; the most horrible day anyone can imagine,” Gutierrez’s mother Diana Gutierrez said. “It’s unreal, just unreal. I still don’t believe it. You don’t think it will ever happen to you and your children.”
Nicole Gutierrez explained her confusion surrounding the incident due to a recent assembly about emergencies.
“They were telling us what to do in a Code Red, a Code Yellow and all that stuff,” Nicole said, “And then we had a fire drill in the morning, and that was normal. And then this afternoon I was in one of the portables, and they said it was a Code Red. Nobody knew what to believe.”
Ryan said security officers told them police might have a drill later in the week where they would fire blank shots to sound like gunfire.
“So when we were hiding in the room, people were saying they heard gunshots, and we didn’t know if it was real,” Ryan said.
Although efforts over gun control have been unsuccessful in the past, the school shooting in Parkland has revived a debate over gun control.
President Donald Trump was briefed on the shooting and tweeted, “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.”
Justin Hughes, 16, junior, recalled the shooting.
“There was a lot of crying, a lot of sobbing going on. People were really scared. We were whispering, trying to keep it quiet,” Justin said. “People were trying to get the news on their phones, and they started reading that there were 20 kids dead somewhere at the school.”
The day after the shooting, Thursday, Feb. 15, the authorities released the names of the people that were killed.
They are: Alaina Petty, 14; Gina Montalto, 14; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Alexander Schachter, 14; Martin Duque Anguiano, 14; Alyssa Alhadeff, 14; Cara Loughran, 14; Peter Wang, 15; Luke Hoyer, 15; Carmen Schentrup, 16; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Helena Ramsay, 17; Meadow Pollack, 18; Scott Beigel, 35; Christopher Hixon, 49; and Aaron Feis, 37, the school’s assistant football coach and security guard.
Witnesses said the death toll would have been higher if it were not for Feis. According to these witnesses, when the gunfire started Feis quickly covered up students, acting as a human shield.
Julien Descoste survived by hiding in a closet with other students.
“He shielded two kids from being shot. He took the bullets himself,” Decoste said. “As I was being escorted out of the building, I had to step over him. Right then and there … I know: He had to have been dead or injured.”