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Suspected Gunman Nikolas Cruz Charged With 17 Counts of Premeditated Murder

Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student, was booked into Broward County Jail Thursday morning on 17 counts of premeditated murder, one for each of the students and adults he allegedly shot to death Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

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(Photo: Broward County Jail)

Cruz, who had been expelled last year for fighting and who had a history of menacing social media posts, returned to his former high school with a vengeance, opening fire on students who poured into hallways after he triggered fire alarms near the end of the school day.

He is being held without bond.

Listed at 5-foot-7 and 131 pounds, Cruz was arrested a short distance from the school near a home, USA TODAY reports. Students reportedly recognized him during the assault.

The suspect was later escorted into a police station wearing a hospital gown.

Sheriffs officials said that Cruz was initially taken to a hospital for labored breathing before being questioned at sheriff's headquarters.

Among the 17 dead are students and adults, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. Others were injured and taken to hospitals, including at least 14 who were treated at Broward area medical centers.

A sheriff said the bodies of 12 of the dead, including the beloved football coach who stepped in front of a spray of bullets to protect his students, were found inside the building.

There were reportedly dozens of officers and agents on the scene Wednesday afternoon, from the local department, the FBI and various associated task forces. They tracked down Cruz at a home close to the school, within two hours after the shooting began. It's unclear how he escaped the campus, but some are speculating that he blended in with students in the midst of all the chaos.

Cruz is a rare case, as the suspects in these tragedies are not usually captured alive.

After being expelled in spring 2017, Cruz was not allowed back on campus, yet he arrived at the building Wednesday wielding an AR-15 rifle.

The first victim to be identified is Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School athletic director Chris Hixon, who was 49 years old. An athletic director from a nearby high school described Hixon as the "nicest guy I have ever met."