FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida teen has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder following a shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz was booked into the Broward County Jail in Fort Lauderdale, around 5:30 a.m., Thursday morning, where he will be held without bond. He faced Broward Circuit Court judge Kim Theresa Mollica, Thursday afternoon at around 2 p.m.
“You are charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder,” the judge said. “I have something very important to tell you. You’re charged with some very serious crimes. You have the right to remain silent.”
7News cameras captured the moment the gunman was escorted into the jail by sheriff’s deputies. He was still wearing the same hospital gown he was seen in Wednesday night, when he was transferred from the hospital to Broward Sheriff’s Office headquarters.
The deadly attack took place Wednesday afternoon, right before school dismissal, at around 2:30 p.m. Investigators said Cruz, who took an Uber to the school and carried a duffle bag and a backpack, was equipped with smoke grenades, set off a fire alarm and shot off an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle at teachers and students.
In the arrest affidavit, a witness said that “Cruz was carrying a black duffel bag and wearing a black backpack.”
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel released a timeline of the events that occurred. “The suspect exited the stairwell, pulled the rifle out of the case at 2:21 p.m. The suspect readied his rifle and began shooting into rooms. He then took the west stairwell to the second floor and shot one victim. He then took the east stairwell to the third floor,” he said.
Based on the timeline of events the sheriff shared, the shooter was inside the school for only about seven minutes. “He dropped his rifle and backpack,” continued Israel, “ran down the stairs, exited Building 12 and ran toward the tennis courts. He crossed fields and ran west along with others who were fleeing.”
He went on to say that the suspect tried to mix in with a group of students that were fleeing on foot in fear.
Authorities said that Cruz confessed to the mass shooting. The arrest affidavit stated that Cruz told police that he decided “to discard the AR-15 and vest with the additional magazines so he could blend into the crowd.”
Cruz then went to a Walmart store, bought a drink at a Subway and left the Walmart on foot. The suspect then went to McDonalds at 3:01 p.m. and stayed for a while before leaving on foot.
At 3:41 p.m. he was detained in Coral Springs by an officer from the Coconut Creek Police Department.
Officials said that this is still a fluid investigation. They are still going over surveillance.
One day after the tragic shooting, the feeling of panic has turned to grief.
“It still hasn’t really hit me because it’s something that seems unreal,” said one student. “It’s something you only see on TV.”
According to officials, 17 people were killed and 14 others were hospitalized. Five people remain in critical condition, Thursday, and are now recovering at hospitals across Broward County.
According to Cruz’s lawyers, he has been placed on suicide watch and has had mental illness his whole life.
“This young man is deeply disturbed, emotionally broken,” said Broward Public Defender’s Office attorney Gordon Weekes. “He’s gone through a lot in a very short period of time. That does not minimize the loss of those families.”
Meanwhile, the leader of a Florida white nationalist group has come out to say that Cruz was a member of the organization.
The school will remain closed to students as officials continue to investigate the crime scene.
An arrest affidavit stated that Cruz’s mother passed away in November and his father had also passed away several years prior.
Federal investigators looking to find out more about their suspect spent hours in a neighborhood near Parkland, about five miles away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
“Nikolas lived here for the last 90 days, since his mom died in November, up in Palm Beach County,” said that family’s attorney, Jim Lewis. “Starting about Thanksgiving, he moved in here with his friend and the mom and dad took him in ’cause he needed a place to stay.”
Lewis said that the family took Cruz in about three months ago, when he had nowhere else to go.
Lewis also said no one in the family had any indication Cruz would or could do something like this. However, he did describe a questionable interaction.
Officials spent hours inside the Sunrise Tactical Supply store, Thursday, where Cruz legally purchased the gun.
An attorney who spoke for the gun shop owner said that Cruz passed a criminal background check and there was nothing suspicious about the transaction.
“The Morrisons here sold a lawful weapon to someone who was mentally ill,” the attorney said. “Someone who fell through the cracks, someone who was not held accountable for their actions when they were expelled from school, someone who was not put into any databases, and someone who was essentially allowed to go unchecked before walking into this store and purchasing a firearm.”
What he did with the firearm turned his former high school into a massive crime scene.
According to Israel, all the victim’s families have been notified, Thursday.
President Donald Trump has also addressed the shooting from the White House.
“My fellow Americans, today I speak to a nation in grief,” he said. “Today we mourn for all of those who lost their lives. We comfort the grieving and the wounded. And we hurt for the entire community of Parkland, Florida that is now in shock and pain, and searching for answers.”
As authorities continue to search for a motive, counselors are being made available to students, teachers and staff. However, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will remain closed Friday, as the investigation continues.
School Superintendent Robert Runcie said in a news conference Thursday afternoon that hundreds have used the crises services. Runcie said they will continue to offer them on Friday and Saturday for as long as necessary.
An emotional school superintendent, Robert Runcie, held a news conference Thursday morning. “I just continue to think about the parents and the families that sent their kids to school, and they did not return,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll ever forget yesterday, but we need to figure out how to recover, as we really try to come together to help and support each other.”
The FBI has set up a tip line. If you have any information about the suspect that could help investigators, you are asked to call 1-800-225-5324.
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