The suspected gunman in the Florida school shooting allegedly attempted to flee the scene by hiding himself among students exiting the building.
According to a Broward Sheriff’s Office news release, Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old suspected of opening fire in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, managed to escape the scene by concealing “himself in the crowd and was among those running out of the school.”
Investigators combed through security footage at the school in order to identify Cruz, which led to his arrest “in a nearby neighborhood in Coral Springs” by Coconut Creek PD within two hours of the shooting. He was taken into custody without incident and transported to a local hospital for exhibiting labored breathing. Upon being released back into police custody, he was taken to a police station for questioning.
Cruz is said to have entered the school, where he had been expelled last year for “disciplinary reasons,” just before dismissal armed with an AR-15, several magazines of ammunition, a gas mask and smoke grenades. Authorities stated that he had legally purchased the assault rifle about a year ago.
In the hours following the shooting, details of Cruz’s troubled past began emerging, including disturbing social media posts showing him with guns and knives. Students and staff at the high school described the 19-year-old as a “loner” who bragged about guns and talked about killing animals. He was also said to have harassed and threatened students.
The shooting, the third deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, left 17 people dead and 15 injured, with officials reporting that 12 people died in the school building, two outside, one in the street and two more at the hospital. Athletic director Chris Hixon and football coach and security guard Aaron Feis have been identified as two of the victims.
Cruz has since been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He is expected to appear for his first court appearance Thursday, Feb. 15 at 2 p.m.