The 19-year-old man accused of killing 17 people at a Florida high school fled hidden in a crowd of frightened students and visited two fast food restaurants before he was arrested less than two hours after the massacre, officials said on Thursday.
Authorities said the alleged gunman, Nikolas Cruz, stopped at a Wal-Mart, a Subway restaurant and a McDonald’s immediately after carrying out the second-deadliest mass shooting at a public school in U.S. history.
(For a graphic on Florida school shooting click http://tmsnrt.rs/2nX8ECo)
“The suspect crossed fields and ran west along with others who were fleeing and tried to mix in with the group that were running away, fearing for their lives,” Broward Country Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters.
Cruz, who has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, is accused of using a legally purchased AR-15-style weapon in Wednesday’s attack, moving through Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland outside Miami. Cruz was a former student of the school who had been expelled.
The accused shooter may have left warning signs on social media in the form of a comment on YouTube video that read “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” A YouTube user passed that comment on the Federal Bureau of Investigation in September, but the FBI did not connect it to Cruz.
“No other information was included with that comment which would indicate a time, location or the true identity of the person who made the comment,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Lasky told reporters. He noted that the YouTube user who reported the comment lives in Mississippi and said that investigators saw nothing to link it to Florida.
Wednesday’s shooting was the 18th in a U.S. school this year, according to gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. It stirred the long-simmering U.S. debate on the right to bear arms, which is protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
President Donald Trump addressed the shooting in a White House speech that emphasized school safety and mental health while avoiding any mention of gun policy.
“It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference,” Trump said at the White House. “We must actually make that difference.”
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives criticized the Republican leadership for refusing to take up legislation on tightening background checks for prospective gun buyers.
“It’s appalling,” Representative Mike Thompson told reporters. “Thirty people every day are killed by someone using a gun, and the best we can do is say we need more information?”
The Republican-controlled Congress last year revoked Obama-era regulations meant to make it harder for those with severe mental illness to pass FBI background checks for guns, saying the rule deprived the mentally ill of their gun rights.
Fifteen people were injured in Wednesday’s shooting, according to local hospital officials.
‘BROKEN HUMAN BEING’
Cruz’s court-appointed lawyer said he had expressed remorse for his crimes.
“He’s a broken human being,” public defender Melisa McNeill told reporters. “He’s sad, he’s mournful, he’s remorseful.”
Cruz had done paramilitary training with a white nationalist militia called the Republic of Florida, a leader of the group said.
“He had some involvement with the Clearwater Republic of Florida cell at some point,” Jordan Jereb said in a telephone interview. Reuters could not immediately verify the claim.
Cruz loved guns and had been expelled from high school for disciplinary reasons, police and former classmates said.
Cruz told police that he had carried out the attack, according to an arrest document released on Thursday, which noted that he made that admission after being advised of his right not to incriminate himself.
In a brief court appearance, Cruz spoke only two words, “Yes ma’am,” when a judge asked him to confirm his name. He was ordered held without bond.
Cruz had recently moved in with another family after his mother’s death in November, according to Jim Lewis, a lawyer representing the family, bringing his AR-15 along with his other belongings.
The family believed Cruz was depressed, but attributed that to his mother’s death, not mental illness, Lewis said.
Victims included an assistant football coach who sheltered students, a social science teacher and multiple students.
People who live on same street as Cruz said he alarmed them by shooting squirrels and rabbits in the neighborhood as well as chickens being raised in a nearby backyard. Several times a year, they observed law enforcement officials at his house.
“Killing animals was no problem for this young man,” said Rhonda Roxburgh, 45, who lived on the block for several years and whose parents continue to live there.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Peter Szekely in New York, David Alexander, Lindsay Dunsmuir, Mark Hosenball and Susan Heavey in Washington, Jon Herskovitz in Austin and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Tom Brown)
Fox News reporter and right-wing conspiracy theorists planned to wiretap family of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich: report
The Daily Beast on Monday evening broke a bombshell report on a secret 2017 meeting in Texas on a right-wing conspiracy theory where espionage was discussed.
"One of their topics was responding to online critics of wealthy Texas businessman Ed Butowsky, who had recently been outed as a driving force behind a retracted Fox News story about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich," The Beast reported. "The group that gathered at Butowsky’s home included a conspiracy theorist, a Fox reporter fighting for her career, a former private intelligence contractor married to star journalist Lara Logan, and a Democratic PR operative who lost his business in the face of sexual assault allegations."
Maddow breaks down potential ‘direct financial connection’ between the Russian government and Donald Trump
MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow read bombshell excerpts from a new book set for release on Tuesday.
The host interviewed David Enrich, finance editor at The New York Times, about his forthcoming book Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction.
The host of "The Rachel Maddow Show" read excerpts from the book.
"There was no doubt that Deutsche Bank had extensive business dealings with Russia, and those dealings included acting as a conduit for dirty money to get out of Russia and into the western financial system," Enrich wrote.
Congress still has one big tool left to rein in Trump’s corruption: Oversight Committee Democrat
Senate Republicans may have managed to quash the impeachment trial without calling forth any new witnesses or seriously considering the evidence against President Donald Trump. And the president may feel vindicated and largely invulnerable as a result.
But, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Monday, that doesn't mean Democrats don't have one last big play to rein in the president's abuses of power. They can use the first and strongest authority delegated to them: the power of the purse.
"What can Democrats really do when it comes to oversight of the president?" asked Cooper. "I mean, now that impeachment is over, does seem like there are fewer and fewer guardrails, if any."