Parkland, FL – President Donald Trump addressed the nation about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings on Thursday morning, and said his administration was working closely with state and local authorities to investigate the tragedy and learn as much as possible about what happened in Florida on Wednesday.
“We are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health,” President Trump said.
“Later this month, I will be in meetings with the nation’s governors and attorney generals where making our schools and our children safer will be our top priority,” he said.
“It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make that difference,” the President said.
The 19-year-old gunman, whose Valentine’s Day rampage left 17 students and faculty dead, had been on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) radar screen in September of 2017.
Nikolas Cruz, who had been expelled the year before, activated a fire alarm at the Parkland high school shortly before 3 p.m. on Feb. 14, and opened fire with an AR-15 on unsuspecting students who flowed outside believing it was a drill, CNN reported.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Cruz had an AR-15 rifle and multiple magazines. He wore a gas mask and carried smoke grenades, the Independent reported.
Panicked students fled, and Cruz followed some of them back into the building, where many students and faculty were taking shelter after hearing the gunshots.
Students posted terrifying videos of the shooting from inside the school to social media.
Cruz shot students in the hallways and huddled in classrooms. He shot a teacher in the doorway of a classroom, as he rushed to close the door and lock the gunman out.
When he was finished, he’d left 17 students and faculty dead, and 14 more wounded.
Then he joined a group of students evacuating and walked out of the building, and off campus, without anybody noticing him.
Police arrested Cruz shortly after 4 p.m. in the nearby community of Coral Springs.
Students who knew Cruz have told police and reporters that they weren’t surprised to hear he was the shooter, and many said they knew he was obsessed with guns.
When asked at a press conference if there had been signs warning of the impending massacre, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said there likely were.
“I believe there will be after our investigators finish dissecting his social media,” the sheriff said. Initial pictures from Cruz’s Instagram account showed him posing repeatedly with guns and knives.
A Mississippi bail bondsman posted a video on YouTube on Feb. 14 in which he said he had warned the FBI about Cruz last fall.
In the video, Ben Bennight said the user named “nikolas cruz” posted “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” on his YouTube channel on Sept. 24.
He reported it to his local FBI field office, and agents came out to get the information from him, and he heard nothing more about it.
Bennight didn’t remember which video the comment had been posted on, but said he also notified YouTube and they had removed it.
In Wednesday’s video, he said the FBI had just left his home after interviewing him, and that he’d heard from FBI agents from more than one city since the shootings, leading him to believe FBI already had Cruz on their radar screen.
Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runci initially said that the school had no signs or warnings about Cruz, but teachers from Douglas High School told a different story.
Jim Gard, a math teacher, said Cruz had been his student last year, and that the school administrators had sent out a warning email about him.
“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” Gard told the Miami Herald. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”
Sheriff Israel said that Cruz had been expelled from Douglas High School for disciplinary reasons, although he did not have the specifics.
An attorney for the family with whom Cruz was living explained that they’d taken in the depressed teenager after his mother died of pneumonia in November. His father died when he was a child. Cruz had attended Douglas High School with their son.
Attorney Jim Lewis told The New York Times that the family had taken in a troubled kid who had nowhere to go, and helped him get a job and enroll in classes to get his GED.
Mr. Lewis told CNN said that Cruz refused to get out of bed to go to school on Wednesday.
CNN reported that Cruz explained his reluctance by saying something to the effect of “It’s Valentine’s Day. I don’t go to school on Valentine’s Day.”
The family hadn’t seen any signs of mental illness, other than the depression they attributed to the recent loss of his mother, Lewis said.
“They didn’t see that. They didn’t see a mentally ill person, or they wouldn’t have let him live under their home,” he told CNN.
Broward County Mayor Beam Furr told CNN that Cruz was “a client at mental health clinics” and “dealing with mental health issues,” however, the network said they had not yet confirmed that.
Cruz was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday, and was being held at the Broward County Jail, according to The New York Times.
Police have not yet released the identities of the dead and injured victims, but the Miami Herald reported that the families of two students had released information.