PARKLAND, FL (RNN) - A gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday, killing 17 people and wounding at least half a dozen more, the Broward County sheriff said.
"This is a terrible day," Sheriff Scott Israel said. "It's catastrophic."
Suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz is in custody. He was arrested about a mile from the school, the sheriff said.
Cruz used an AR-15-style weapon and had multiple magazines on him. The 19-year-old is a former student at the high school and was expelled for disciplinary reasons.
Cruz had also made disturbing posts on social media before the shooting, Israel said.
Twelve of the victims were shot in the school, two were shot outside of the building, and one was killed on the road next to the school, Israel said.
Israel said none of the victims will be identified until all of their families have been notified.
The victims were a mix of adults and students. Two of those shot died at the hospital.
People were transported to area hospitals. Israel didn't say how many were wounded but did say some were in surgery. First responders helped those fleeing the school in nearby triage areas.
Cruz is expected to appear in court on Thursday, CNN has reported.
Robert Runcie, Superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, said Douglas High will be closed for the remainder of the week. Counselors will be available for students and teachers beginning Thursday morning.
Runcie said the suspect was enrolled at a school in the school system at the time of the shooting.
Attorney General Pam Bondi said the state of Florida is prepared to pay for the funerals of all the deceased victims and pay for counseling for all the survivors.
Bondi also said GoFundMe has reached out to her office in an effort to prevent scammers from profiting in the names of the victims.
Broward Health North said it was treating six victims of the shooting. Three were in critical condition and three others were stable.
Today we experiencing the worst of humanity as an unspeakable tragedy has hit our @browardschools family at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS. There has been a shooting on campus with injuries and fatalities. We are working with law enforcement as we pray for our babies and families.— Supt Runcie (@RobertwRuncie) February 14, 2018
Parents were attempting to reach some of their children as police and tactical teams swept through the school, going building to building and clearing each room.
"I am sitting here in my car in this traffic jam just like, 'I wish my car could fly at the moment,'" said Simone Kuffner, whose son Shawn attends the high school.
As authorities cleared the campus, students, teachers and staff streamed out with their hands up in single file lines.
Law enforcement and ambulances scrambled to the scene when shots were reported close to dismissal time, before 3 p.m. ET. Students told local media that they heard the fire alarm go off about 10 minutes before school let out.
The students then fled back inside the building as the shooting began, while others ran to nearby businesses.
Lissette Rozenblet told CNN her daughter evacuated to a nearby Walmart along with other students. Some parents said they were scared to call or text their children in case their phones were not on silent, afraid that a noise would alert the gunman to their child's presence.
A freshman at the school who also fled to the Walmart, Geovanni Vilsant, told the Miami Herald he saw at least three bodies on the ground as he fled the first floor of the building where the shooting began.
"There was blood everywhere. They weren't moving," he said.
Another student told CBS News: "I was in the Freshmen building, first floor, And he went up and down the hallway just banging and shooting into the classrooms. He shot through my door and broke the window."
Melissa Falkowski, a teacher at the school, said she managed to put 19 students in a closet when the shooting began, she told CNN.
"We got maybe 15 to 20 steps out of the classroom and we were told we were on 'Code Red' and we ran back inside to the classroom and got them crouched down on the floor," she said. "And then we moved into the closet and we were hidden in the closet."
One student said he's not surprised that Cruz is the alleged shooter.
"Honestly a lot of people were saying that it was going to be him, a lot of kids threw jokes around like that, saying that he was going to be the one to shoot up the school, but it turns out, you know, everyone predicted it. That's crazy," he told Miami's WFOR.
Parkland is a city of about 30,000 people, about 15 miles northwest of Fort Lauderdale, FL. The public high school has an enrollment of 3,158 students and serves grades ninth through 12th.
The FBI also was on the scene and investigating.
The agency has established a tip line. Anyone with information regarding the shooting is asked to call 1-800-Call-FBI (1-800-2255-324).
Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted shortly after the shooting was reported, assuring the public that he was aware of the situation and that he was in contact with local authorities.
“I’ve spoken with Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie and FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen regarding Stoneman Douglas High School,” Scott said. “We’ll continue to receive updates from law enforcement.”
I’ve spoken with @BrowardSheriff Scott Israel, @browardschools Superintendent Robert Runcie and FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen regarding Stoneman Douglas High School. We’ll continue to receive updates from law enforcement.— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) February 14, 2018
“How could this ever happen in this country? How could this ever happen in this state?” Scott said during a news conference with local authorities Wednesday night.
"This is just absolutely pure evil," Scott said.
President Trump issued a statement on Twitter.
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.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2018
Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted that it was a “terrible day” for his state.
Just spoke to Broward School Superintendent. Today is that terrible day you pray never comes.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 14, 2018
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords tweeted that accounts of the shooting "strike fear into all Americans."
The accounts from today's school shooting in Parkland, Florida strike fear into all Americans. Is it safe to send our kids to school? Are we safe in our homes and communities?— Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) February 15, 2018
The last reported shooting at a middle or high school in the U.S. was only a few weeks ago, on Feb. 1, at Salvador B. Castro Middle School in downtown Los Angeles, according to the Associated Press.
A 12-year-old girl was arrested after a gun she’d brought to school accidentally went off and injured four students.
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