Suspected Gunman Nikolas Cruz Legally Purchased Assault Rifle Last Year, Law Enforcement Official Says

Nikolas Cruz, the ex-student suspected in the deadly Florida school shooting, legally purchased an assault rifle last year.

The 19-year-old suspected gunman in the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida legally purchased an AR-15 assault rifle last year, a law enforcement official said.

Cruz, who had been expelled from the school last year after an alleged fight with his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend and for other “disciplinary reasons,” entered the school located just 50 miles from Miami just before dismissal on Wednesday, Feb. 14. He was armed with an AR-15 rifle, several magazines, a gas mask, and smoke grenades, allegedly pulling the fire alarm before opening fire.

Students and teachers at the school described the teenager as a “loner” who threatened and harassed peers, posed with guns in photos posted to social media, bragged about target practice, and talked about killing animals.

Jim Gard, a math teacher at the high school, claimed that Cruz may have previously been identified as a threat and that school officials had sent staff an email stating that the 19-year-old shouldn’t be allowed onto school grounds with a backpack.

It is believed that Cruz managed to escape the school after the shooting by blending in with the other students fleeing the building. He was located within two hours near a home just a short distance from the school and taken to the hospital for labored breathing. He was later brought to a police station in a hospital gown for questioning.

The shooting left 17 students and adults dead and wounded 14 others. Among the first victims to be identified are athletic director Chris Hixon and football coach and security guard Aaron Feis, who has been hailed a hero after stepping in front of bullets to shield students.