As it happenedended1518754566

Florida shooting: Suspect Nikolas Cruz 'confessed to killing students' police report claims - as it happened

Hundreds attend vigils for the 17 victims of the massacre 

Clark Mindock
Parkland, Florida
,Mythili Sampathkumar,Jeremy B. White,Andrew Griffin
Thursday 15 February 2018 16:03
Florida shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz appears in court the day after mass shooting

The teenager accused of using an AR-15 rifle to kill 17 people at a Florida high school is said to have confessed to police that he was the one who carried out the shooting and carried extra ammunition in his backpack, according to a sheriff's department arrest report.

Nikolas Cruz told investigators that he shot students in the hallways and on the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, north of Miami, the report from the Broward County Sheriff's Office said.

The youngest of the victims in one of the deadliest school shootings in US history, was identified as 15-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff. Meanwhile Cruz appeared in court charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. More than a dozen other people were injured in the shooting. The judge ordered Cruz - who has not yet entered a plea - to be held without bail.

Follow the updates in our liveblog below.

Please allow a moment for our liveblog to load

Police also laid out what they believe to be the timeline for the shooting, which is said to have started when the suspect was dropped off at the school at 2.19 pm local time [7.19pm GMT] by an Uber taxi. Sheriff Scott Israel said at a news conference that the suspect entered the east stairwell and pulled the AR-15 rifle out of a case, readying it and then beginning to shoot into classrooms. The suspect is then said to have shot into classrooms on multiple floors.

The suspect is then said to have dropped the rifle, a vest and his backpack before running back down the stairs. Police believe he discarded those items to join others who were fleeing and escape the grounds. Cruz was arrested about an hour later, having visited at least one fast food restaurant in the meantime.

In a televised address to the nation – his fourth following a mass shooting – President Donald Trump urged Americans to “respond to hate with love”.

Trump addresses nation following Florida shooting: 'Your suffering is our burden also'

“Later this month, I will be meeting with the nation’s governors and attorney generals, where making our schools and our children safer will be our top priority,” he said. “We must also work together to create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life, that creates deep and meaningful human connections and that turns classmates and colleagues into friends and neighbours.”

In his remarks to the nation, Mr Trump avoided the issue of gun control, which was the subject of a lot of talk from those in Congress throughout the day, but did say he planned to travel to Florida to meet with victims’ families.


Welcome to the second day of The Independent's live blog, as the US reels from its 18th mass shooting already this year. More details continue to emerge from the horrific shooting, as people call on politicians to explore how the next attack can be stopped.

Andrew Griffin15 February 2018 08:17

Reactions from across the world are coming in:

Theresa May has said ""my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Florida and the whole of the United States".

Vladimir Putin has expressed his condolences to Donald Trump, according to the Kremlin.

Andrew Griffin15 February 2018 08:19

As the first pictures of suspect Nikolaus Cruz being arrested emerge, so too are disturbing details about his past. Police have confirmed they are looking into material posted onto his social media channels before the shooting.

"Some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing," the police said of their exploration of his personal social media channels, without elaborating on what they are.

The public posts thought to be linked to him show an obsession with guns and violence – including pictures of the guns and bullets that are thought to have been used during the attack.

Andrew Griffin15 February 2018 08:24

The gun used during the Florida school shooting has a rich history – it's America's favourite weapon, and it's also the favourite weapon of its mass murderers. That's not a coincidence.

Andrew Griffin15 February 2018 09:56

Steve Kerr, the coach of the Golden State Warriors, has launched a blistering attack on Donald Trump and other politicians for their failure to do anything about gun control.

“Well, nothing has been done,” Kerr said. “It doesn't seem to matter to our government that children are being shot to death day after day in schools. It doesn't seem to matter that people are being shot at a concert, in a movie theatre. It's not enough, apparently, to move our leadership, our government, the people running this country to actually do anything. That's demoralising.”

Andrew Griffin15 February 2018 10:22

The Associated Press has. dispatch from Parkland in Florida, the community at the centre of the shooting:

Just before the shooting broke out, some students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School thought they were having another fire drill. 

Such an exercise had forced them to leave their classrooms hours earlier. So when the alarm went off Wednesday afternoon shortly before they were to be dismissed, they once again filed out into the hallways. 

That's when police say 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, equipped with a gas mask, smoke grenades and multiple magazines of ammunition, opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon, killing 17 people and sending hundreds of students fleeing into the streets. It was the nation's deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago. 

"Our district is in a tremendous state of grief and sorrow," said Robert Runcie, superintendent of the school district in Parkland, about an hour's drive north of Miami. "It is a horrible day for us." 

Authorities offered no immediate details about Cruz or his possible motive, except to say that he had been kicked out of the high school, which has about 3,000 students. Students who knew him described a volatile teenager whose strange behavior had caused others to end friendships with him. 

Cruz's mother Lynda Cruz died of pneumonia on Nov. 1 neighbors, friends and family members said, according to the Sun Sentinel . Cruz and her husband, who died of a heart attack several years ago, adopted Nikolas and his biological brother, Zachary, after the couple moved from Long Island in New York to Broward County. 

The boys were left in the care of a family friend after their mother died, family member Barbara Kumbatovich, of Long Island, said. 

Unhappy there, Nikolas Cruz asked to move in with a friend's family in northwest Broward. The family agreed and Cruz moved in around Thanksgiving. According to the family's lawyer, who did not identify them, they knew that Cruz owned the AR-15 but made him keep it locked up in a cabinet. He did have the key, however. 

Jim Lewis said the family is devastated and didn't see this coming. They are cooperating with authorities, he said. 

Victoria Olvera, a 17-year-old junior at the school, said Cruz was expelled last school year because he got into a fight with his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend. She said he had been abusive to his girlfriend. 

"I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him," she said. 

Cruz was taken into custody without a fight about an hour after the shooting in a residential neighborhood about a mile away. He had multiple magazines of ammunition, authorities said. 

"It's catastrophic. There really are no words," said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. 

Frantic parents rushed to the school to find SWAT team members and ambulances surrounding the huge campus and emergency workers who appeared to be treating the wounded on sidewalks. Students who hadn't run began leaving in a single-file line with their hands over their heads as officers urged them to evacuate quickly. 

Hearing loud bangs as the shooter fired, many of the students inside hid under desks or in closets, and barricaded doors. 

"We were in the corner, away from the windows," said freshman Max Charles, who said he heard five gunshots. "The teacher locked the door and turned off the light. I thought maybe I could die or something." 

As he was leaving the building, he saw four dead students and one dead teacher. He said he was relieved when he finally found his mother. 

"I was happy that I was alive," Max said. "She was crying when she saw me." 

Noah Parness, a 17-year-old junior, said he and the other students calmly went outside to their fire-drill areas when he suddenly heard popping sounds. 

"We saw a bunch of teachers running down the stairway, and then everybody shifted and broke into a sprint," Parness said. "I hopped a fence." 

Most of the fatalities were inside the building, though some victims were found fatally shot outside, the sheriff said. 

Sen. Bill Nelson told CNN that Cruz had pulled the fire alarm "so the kids would come pouring out of the classrooms into the hall." 

"And there the carnage began," said Nelson, who said he was briefed by the FBI.

Andrew Griffin15 February 2018 11:02

Nikolas Cruz, the suspect in the shooting, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, police have said.

Further details are still emerging about the orphaned 19-year-old, who had a troubled past and a difficult relationship with the school. You can read more about him here.

Andrew Griffin15 February 2018 11:53

Donald Trump has sent his latest tweet about the murders last night:

"So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior," he wrote. "Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!"

That followed a series of tweets last night in which he offered his "prayers and condolences to the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school," he wrote.

In a follow-up tweet he said that he had spoken to Governor Rick Scott and that they were "working closely with law enforcement on the terrible Florida school shooting".  

Yesterday's tweets generated an angry response from an account apparently run by a student at the Parkland school where the shooting happened. In it, the Twitter user called Mr Trump "f*****g piece of s**t". You can read our full story on that here.

Andrew Griffin15 February 2018 12:16

A law enforcement official has told The Associated Press that a former student who killed 17 people at a Florida school legally purchased his AR-15 rifle about a year ago. 

Federal law allows people 18 and over to legally purchase long guns. At 21, people can legally buy handguns from a licensed dealer.

Andrew Griffin15 February 2018 13:35

Pope Francis has sent his condolences to the victims of the school shooting in Florida and praying that "such senseless acts of violence may cease." 

The Vatican says Francis sent a telegram Thursday to the archbishop of Miami saying he was "deeply saddened" to learn of the "devastating attack." 

Francis said he was praying for the dead and wounded and those who are grieving.

Andrew Griffin15 February 2018 13:36

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments