Officials Charge Alleged Florida School Gunman With 17 Counts Of Premeditated Murder

Feb 15, 2018
Originally published on February 15, 2018 11:58 pm
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Once again a community and the nation are absorbing the horror of a mass shooting. We've been getting more details today about the 19-year-old suspect and some of the 17 students and adults killed yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The suspect made a brief court appearance today and was ordered held without bond. He's charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. NPR's Greg Allen begins our coverage from Parkland, Fla.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Police are still restricting access to the area around Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while they process the crime scene. Students, though, have been talking about yesterday's horrific events. Kelsey Friend says like most of the school, her freshman geography class began to file out when they heard what they thought was the second fire drill of the day. Once in the hallway, though, Friend says her teacher knew something was wrong and began to usher them back into their classroom.

KELSEY FRIEND: And then we heard bop, bop, bop, bop (ph). And my teacher Mr. Beigel did open the classroom door to let us in. But I had thought he was behind me, but he was not. He did unfortunately pass away.

ALLEN: That was teacher Scott Beigel. Authorities today released a list of the victims. They include children and adults, including Beigel, athletic director Chris Hixon and football coach Aaron Feis. Junior Olivia Prochilo said she'd just seen Feis a few hours earlier.

OLIVIA PROCHILO: We have teachers at the school that were willing to give their lives for us, for our - like, it's just - it's chilling when I talk about it.

ALLEN: At a news conference, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said law enforcement teams were still collecting evidence at the school today but that all the remains of those who died have been removed. Israel said while he wants it done as quickly as possible, his first priority is doing it right.


SCOTT ISRAEL: Right now the focus of the FBI the Broward Sheriff's Office is on the successful prosecution of this killer.

ALLEN: People who knew the suspect, Nikolas Cruz, describe him as a troubled loner with an obsession about guns. On his social media pages, he posted numerous pictures of himself with guns and even threatened violence. Authorities say he had been receiving counseling for a time, but that stopped after his mother died last year. Cruz is not known to have been diagnosed with a mental illness, but local officials acknowledged some warning signs were missed.

FBI Special Agent Rob Lasky says last year the bureau did investigate a chilling comment posted to YouTube channel which read simply, I'm going to be a professional school shooter. It was signed Nikolas Cruz. Lasky says the bureau was unable to identify who posted the comment.


ROB LASKY: No additional information was found to positively identify the person who posted this comment. There was no connection found to South Florida.

ALLEN: Florida Governor Rick Scott said today he's talking to legislative leaders in Tallahassee about coming up with funding and programs to make schools safer and to make sure people with mental illnesses can't buy guns.


RICK SCOTT: The violence has to stop. We cannot lose another child in this country to violence in a school.

ALLEN: Despite repeated questions, Scott refused to address the issue of gun control. Broward County Superintendent of Schools Robert Runcie said students he's heard from aren't hesitating. He says they have an unequivocal message they want heard.


ROBERT RUNCIE: Now is the time for this country to have a real conversation on sensible gun control laws in this country. So our students are asking for that conversation, and I hope we can get it done in this generation. But if we don't, they will.

ALLEN: It's a message echoed by junior Olivia Prochilo.

PROCHILO: Something needs to change because this is a school. This is where people want to learn. This isn't where people want to be afraid. This isn't where people are scared for their lives and should - it's just - it's absolutely - there's no words for it.

ALLEN: Today counselors were available to students at several locations in the area. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will be closed for at least the rest of the week while investigators continue their work. Greg Allen, NPR News, Parkland, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.