The suspect in a shooting rampage at a Florida School that reportedly left “numerous” people dead, has been preliminarily identified as 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz, media reported, citing officials.
The gunman reportedly had a rifle and possibly a handgun as he entered the school on Wednesday afternoon, before opening fire.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told media that the man was a former student of the school.
The attacker has been identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, according to AFP and CBS News reports, citing officials with the knowledge of the investigation.
The shooter was “expelled for disciplinary reasons,” Israel said during a media briefing where he confirmed the identity of the suspect. It is yet unclear if Cruz, who was born in September, 1998, was enrolled in any other school after dropping out from Douglas High.
Cruz was armed with an AR-15 rifle when he entered the school, leaving “countless magazines” at the scene, Israel said, adding that it is still unclear if he had any other weapon. Cruz opened fire outside the school, killing two people near the building and one person on the street. Twelve more people were fatally shot inside. Another two succumbed to their wounds in hospital, the sheriff said, adding that the death toll may still rise.
Cruz was apprehended off-campus about an hour after the shooting unfolded, Scott said, adding that the teenager did not attempt to resist the arrest.
The gunman did not sustain any significant injuries.
Cruz had been banned from campus for making threats in the past, the Miami Herald reported, citing a teacher at the school.
Math teacher Jim Gard, interviewed by the newspaper, said the teachers were warned not to allow Cruz walk onto campus with a backpack.
“There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus,” Gard said.
Cruz was well known to have troubles with “every single teacher” at the school, a senior student told CBS.
“Every single teacher he ever had, there was a problem,” the unnamed student said.
While at school, Cruz was enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Program Corp [JROTC], which is sponsored by the US military, former member of the program Jillian Davis told Reuters. She recounted Cruz talking about “knives and guns,” noting that “no one ever took him seriously.”
Another student told WSVN that Cruz was obsessed with guns and would often boast about his home arsenal in conversations with fellow students. “He shot guns because he felt it gave him, I guess, an exhilarating feeling. He showed me [his guns] personally through his phone,” the student said, describing Cruz as a “troubled kid.”
Unconfirmed screenshots of what purports to be Cruz’s Instagram page have been posted online. The account, now deleted, features photos of Cruz wearing a black mask and posing with a handgun and multiple knives.
CBS News reported that prior to the attack Cruz triggered the fire alarm, which caused panic.
Witnesses’ reports appear to confirm this timeline. One of the students who was locked inside during the incident told CBS News that the school had already conducted a fire drill in the morning, so the students were surprised at what they thought was another one.
The suspect reportedly attempted to flee the scene by blending in with other students.
Accounts by senior students who spoke to media indicate that the suspect was known to have a stock of weapons at home.
Israel said the police are now “dissecting” the suspect’s social media accounts, adding that “very disturbing things come to mind.”
While it is still being speculated what triggered the shooter, a witness said that students at the school used to joke that if anyone were to become a school shooter, it would be Cruz.
“Honestly, a lot of people were saying it was gonna be him,” the student told WJXT, adding that “it turns out, everyone predicted it.”
The student said that Cruz was well prepared for the attack, knew the plan of the building and was present during fire drills.
His motives are unknown so far.