When the shooting began at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday afternoon, Nikolas Cruz was quickly identified as the main suspect. Newly released recordings of the 9-1-1 calls and police radio chatter reveals how.
"White male, burgundy shirt, wearing a black hat and either long black pants or shorts," says a police officer's voice in one of the earlier calls. "He mixed in with a group of students who were running westbound..."
The audio cuts to another officer, who urgently tells dispatch that he has acquired a name for the suspect.
"I'm being told, advised by the employees that it should be a student: Nikolas Cruz, Nikolas Cruz, who came in on campus with a backpack."
"Nikolas Cruz, is that confirmed?" Asks the dispatcher.
"I'm getting that from the baseball coach — they were told it was Nikolas Cruz."
While officers knew who their main suspect was and even which direction he'd run in, the chaos and confusion of the scene made it hard to track him down. There were a total of 78 minutes between the first 9-1-1 call and the arrest, in which the police at the school struggled to use their numbers efficiently.
"Any units that have access to a computer or can open media that they can look up an Instagram account, it's going to be cruz_nikolas — I'm advised that might be the suspect — he has a recent post holding a gun," says an officer in one recording.
The sound bites even reveal that the police had help from the students themselves, who identified Cruz and offered police photos of him to aid in their search.
"I need a suspect's name again — I'm going to talk to a student who may get a picture," one officer said. Dispatch repeated the name, and a short while later they got a picture of the suspect.0comments
"I just talked to a student, I know somebody's looking for a photo. He should be a ginger, red hair with freckles. Always wears a hoodie, was part of the ROTC program. He's about 5 feet 8."
Cruz was arrested with little struggle near the school. He was wearing a Stoneman Douglas High JROTC shirt. He confessed to the murder of 17 people after he was taken into custody, and he's expected to plead guilty in court. Cruz is being held without bond.