Washington: A former student armed with an assault-style rifle went on a shooting spree at a high school in Florida, killing at least 17 people and injuring more than a dozen others, including an Indian-American student, in one of the deadliest mass shootings in the US.
The 19 year-old suspect identified as Nikolas Cruz, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland who was expelled for disciplinary reasons, was arrested after the deadly rampage yesterday.
The school has a large number of Indian-American students and at least one student from the community was injured in the incident.
According to media reports, the suspect is a troubled teenager who posted disturbing material on social media before the shooting spree.
“Nicolas Cruz was the killer. He is in custody. We already began to dissect his websites and social media that he was on … some of the things that come to mind are very, very disturbing,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters at a news conference in Florida.
“He had countless magazines, multiple magazines, and at this point, we believe he had one AR-15 rifle,” the sheriff added.
According to investigators, Cruz pulled the fire alarm to draw people out of classrooms and increase the number of casualties, the CNN reported. But the school already had a fire drill earlier in the day, leading some to think it was a false alarm.
Of the 17 dead, 12 were inside the building, two were shot dead just outside the building, one was on a street outside the school, and two people lost their lives at a hospital. Israel, however, could not confirm the number of victim students.
Authorities said several victims were being treated in the hospital. Three of them are in critical condition.
An Indian-American student, a ninth grader, sustained minor injures after he was hit by splinters. He is being treated at a hospital.
“This is a sad day for the country and the community. We all Indian-Americans are praying for the victims,” Shekar Reddy, whose friend’s son was among those injured in the mass shooting, told PTI.
The FBI is assisting local officials in the investigation.
Israel said Cruz was expelled from the school for disciplinary reasons.
“I don’t know the specifics,” the sheriff said. However, according to media reports, Cruz was expelled last year after a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend.
The shooting, which is among the deadliest mass shootings in modern US history, revived debate over gun control.
President Donald Trump offered his “prayers and condolences to the families of the victims.
“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,” President Trump tweeted.
He spoke with the Florida Governor and other top officials.
Florida Senator Chris Murphy termed it as “a horrific scene” playing out at a high school in South Florida.
“Turn on your television right now, you’re going to see scenes of children running for their lives. It’s what looks to be the th school shooting in this country, and we have not even hit March,” he said on the Senate floor.
The mass shooting, said to be 18th school shooting of the year, have rekindled the debate on the controversial gun control legislation in the US.
Murphy rued at the incident, claiming it was a fallout of “our inaction”.
“This happens nowhere else other than the United States of America…It only happens here not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else,” Murphy said.
Every day in this country, 46 children are shot, said Congressman Donald M Payne.
“Every day in this country, seven children die from gun violence. Those statistics do not occur in any other high-income country on this planet,” he said, urging the members of the US Congress to use their “power to make the world safer for all children.”
“The motives behind the tragic shooting today remain a mystery, but one thing is certain — the loss of innocent life at the hands of a merciless gunman is heinous and despicable,” said Congressman Peter Roskam.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said another American community is reeling from the horror of gun violence, perpetrated against innocent school children.
“Too many families have lost someone to the senseless epidemic of gun violence. Congress has a moral responsibility to take common-sense action to prevent the daily tragedy of gun violence in communities across America. Enough is enough,” Pelosi said.