Officials in Florida have said there were “numerous fatalities” following a school shooting and that at least 17 people had been shot.
Police rushed to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, 45 miles north of Miami, following reports that there was an active shooting incidents. The report came as students were about to leave for the day.
Having initially said the gunman was still at large when they arrived at the school, police subsequently said a suspect had been taken into custody at around 4.14pm on Wednesday afternoon. A Broward County sheriff’s spokesman would not say if the suspect was a student.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said it was believed the shooter was an 18-year-old former student. He was later captured without incident. He said that 14 people had been taken to local hospitals after having suffered “varying degrees” of injury.
Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told reporters: “There are numerous fatalities. It’s a horrific situation.”
As students told of how they hid inside closets to try and keep safe, Mr Runcie said there was no evidence that more than one shooter was involved in the attack. He said the school had received no advance warning of a possible threat.
“It is a day that you pray every day that you never have to see,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “We didn’t have any phone calls or threats that we know of that were made. We cannot live in a world built on fear, we have do what we can to provide the greatest safety measures for our kids.”
Asked whether mental health may have been a factor in the incident, he replied: “No sane person is going to go and commit such an atrocity.”
“Mental health issues in this country are growing and it’s certainly something that needs to be addressed in our school system” he added.
“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.
Students and their parents told how children hid in classrooms until they were rescued by armed police in tactical gear.
McKenzie Hartley, who identified herself as the sister of a student at the school described the scene in a text message to Reuters: “She heard him shooting through the windows of classrooms and two students were shot.”
“My daughter, as of right now, she’s still trapped in a closet. She’s afraid to speak,” a man who identified himself as Caesar Figueroa and said his daughter was inside the school, told CBS News.
“I told her, ‘Don’t call me, because I don’t want no one to hear your voice.’ So, she’s still trapped in a closet in there.”
Live television showed dozens of students, weaving their way between law enforcement officers with heavy weapons and helmets, and large numbers of emergency vehicles including police cars, ambulances and fire trucks.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said on Twitter that had he had been in touch with local officials about the incident.
The shooting was the latest in a deadly series of attacks at US schools. A 15-year-old gunman in January killed two students at a Benton, Kentucky, high school.
“My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting,” President Donald Trump said on Twitter. “No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”
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