First responders describe finding Stoneman Douglas High shooting suspect

PARKLAND, FLA. (WSVN) - Two first responders to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting addressed the media for the first time, including one who describes the moments he first encountered the accused shooter.

Coconut Creek officer Michael Leonard was the first police officer to make contact with 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who is now locked up awaiting trial for killing 17 people in Wednesday’s shooting.

Leonard said once he learned the shooter was at large, he expanded his search and traveled down a back road.

“As I continued down this roadway, I discovered an individual walking along the sidewalk that was wearing the clothing description given over the radio,” said Leonard. “He looked like a typical high school student.”

Leonard added that he questioned whether this was the shooter in question.

“For a quick moment, I thought, ‘Could this be the person? Is this who I need to stop?'” said Leonard. “Training kicked in, I pulled my vehicle over immediately, engaged the suspect, and he complied with my commands.”

The shooter was taken into custody without any issues, the officer said.

Another first responder, Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department Chief Frank Babinec, said they received an active shooter call just before 2:30 p.m.

“As we started our response, we really weren’t sure if this was a real event or not,” said Babinec. “We get calls like this once in a while, and they turn out to be non-real calls, which is a good thing.”

Babinec said more information quickly poured in after the initial call, which left him and his crew without a doubt that this was a real situation.

“As we got to the scene, we had to set up an appropriate command post and triage area to deal with the possible patients we were going to have,” Babinec said.

Babinec said that this event was horrible, but he is proud of all the first responders.

“Our first responders can never unsee what they saw yesterday,” said Babinec. “We will work with them to make sure they get the resources they need to get through this as part of the community.”

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