19-Year-Old Gunman Charged on 17 Counts of Premeditated Murder in Florida School Shooting

Nikolas Cruz was booked into Broward County Jail on 17 counts of premeditated murder. On the right is his yearbook picture. (Broward County Sheriff’s Office/Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School)

The gunman accused of killing 17 people at a Florida high school Wednesday had previously attended the school, where he was known as a “weird kid” and “loner” who was expelled for getting into a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new beau, a current student said.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, arrived at Broward County Jail early Thursday morning after federal and local investigators questioned him for several hours. He was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after being taken into custody “without incident” Wednesday by Coconut Creek police in a Coral Springs neighborhood just a few miles from the high school itself.

“All he would talk about is guns, knives and hunting,” Joshua Charo, 16, a former classmate, told the Miami Herald. “I can’t say I was shocked. From past experiences, he seemed like the kind of kid who would do something like this.”

Police said Cruz, who was identified as the only possible gunman, had been taken to the hospital for a period of time after his arrest because he “exhibited labored breathing.”

The motive behind the massacre was not immediately clear. Lawmakers and officials suggested the shooting may have been planned. Police said they are planning a 10:15 a.m. Thursday news conference. Cruz is also expected to make his first court appeared at 2 p.m.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will be closed on Thursday and Friday.

Students at the high school in Parkland reportedly thought they were having another fire drill when they heard shots fired. Cruz — equipped with a gas mask, smoke grenades and multiple magazines of ammunition — fired his AR-15 rifle as students and faculty barricaded themselves in classrooms, officials said. Other people ran into the streets as they heard “pop, pop, pop” in the background.

Noah Parness, 17, told the Associated Press the fire alarm went off for the second time in the day at around 2:30 p.m. Parness said students were calmly filing out of the school when he suddenly heard several gunshots.

“Everyone was kind of just standing there calm, and then 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.”

An unidentified student described the gruesome scene in an interview with Fox News.

“The police came through the hallway to get us and in the hallway, I saw a big pile of blood, like, kind of smeared as if they were dragged away, and I saw two girls probably dead in the hallway,” she said. “And then, coming down the stairs, there was some more blood and outside the building there was another guy – I think it was a teacher – who was, [I’m] pretty sure was dead.”

Cruz later concealed himself in the crowd of students and teachers running out of the high school, authorities said. He was soon taken into custody without a fight.

“It’s catastrophic. There really are no words,” Broward County Sheriff Scoot Israel said in a news conference Wednesday evening.

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SOURCE: Fox News, Ryan Gaydos and Katherine Lam