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Suspect confesses to killing 17 in Florida school shooting

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Eyewitness News coverage: Deadly shooting at Florida school (1 of 13)

Suspect confesses to killing 17 in Florida school shooting

Josh Einiger and Jim Dolan have more on the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The teenager accused of using a semi-automatic rifle at a Florida high school Wednesday to kill at least 17 people has confessed to carrying out the attack and concealing extra ammunition in his backpack, according to a sheriff's department report. This is the nation's deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago.

The suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. Police said his weapon was legally purchased.
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The suspect in the Florida school shooting massacre makes first court appearance.



The report from the Broward County Sheriff's Office said Nikolas Cruz told investigators that he shot students in the hallways and on the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, one of Florida's largest schools, with an enrollment of 3,000.

Cruz told officers he brought more loaded magazines to the school and kept them hidden in the backpack until he got on campus.

As students began to flee, he said, he decided to discard his AR-15 rifle and a vest he was wearing so he could blend in with the crowd. Police recovered the rifle and the vest.

On Wednesday afternoon, moments 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 shortly before they were to be dismissed, they once again filed out into the hallways.

That's when police said 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.



"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."

A day after the attack, a fuller portrait emerged of the suspect, a loner who had worked at a dollar store, trained with a white nationalist paramilitary group and posted photos of weapons on Instagram. At least one student said classmates joked that Cruz would "be the one to shoot up the school."

Authorities have not described any specific motive, except to say that Cruz had been kicked out of the high school that serves an affluent suburb where the median home price is nearly $600,000.

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Cruz's mother Lynda Cruz died of pneumonia on November 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.

A student tweeted pictures of students cowering as Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School remained in lockdown.



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

Meanwhile, students struggled to describe the violence that ripped through their classrooms on an ordinary day just before classes were to be dismissed.

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.

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.

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.

"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.

Among the dead: a football coach who also worked as a security guard, a senior who planned to attend Lynn University, an athletic director who was active in his Roman Catholic church.

Some bodies remained inside the high school Thursday as authorities analyzed the crime scene. Thirteen wounded survivors were still hospitalized, including two in critical condition.

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.

The school district issued the following statement:

Regarding Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Close to dismissal today at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, staff and students heard what sounded like gunfire. The school went on an immediate code red lock down. We are receiving reports of possible multiple injuries. The school remains on lock down. Law enforcement and the District's Special Investigative Unit are currently on site. The District will provide updates as more information becomes available.


The high school is a sprawling complex set on a tract in the South Florida community of Parkland, about 45 miles north of downtown Miami.

The school had just over 3,100 students in the 2016-2017 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Major streets run along two sides and an expressway passes nearby on the other not far from a residential neighborhood of single family homes.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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