What we know about the victims and suspect
Here’s what we have learned from the sheriff’s office and hospital officials so far:
- Seventeen people have been confirmed dead, including students and adults.
- Other victims have been taken to hospitals for treatment, and at least three are in critical condition.
- Twelve of the victims were killed inside the building, two outside, one in the street and two in the hospital.
- The suspect was identified as Nikolaus Cruz, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from Stoneman Douglas high school.
- Police said Cruz had “countless magazines” and an an AR-15 assault rifle.
- The suspect was apprehended outside of the school and taken into custody without incident.
- The shooting appears to be the eighth school shooting of the year that has involved injury or death.
- Police found “very, very disturbing” material when searching Cruz’s social media.
- None of the victims have been identified.
The tragedy appears to be the eighth deadliest mass shooting in contemporary US history, according to data on public mass shootings compiled by Mother Jones. The database tracks public mass shootings since 1982 with four or more victims killed.
'He pretended to be dead'
More from the Guardian’s Oliver Laughland, who remains on the scene:
The sun has set here outside the Stoneman Douglas high school, but emergency services still appear to be frantically working inside. The roadway remains blocked by dozens of patrol cars and a few remaining family members are congregated on the roadway.
Some said they had friends inside the school when the shooting happened. 19 year-old Jordyn Dahan, who lives in the neighbourhood and had many friends who attend the school or work there, said she had texted with a friend who teaches English:
She told me the shooter was in the hallway near her classroom. The shooting was really loud, and there were people shot through the door ... It’s just horrific and scary to think something like this can happen here.”
23 year-old Sivan Odiz, another local resident with close family friends in the school said a 15 year-old friend of her younger brother had been inside a classroom the shooter attacked. She had been in contact with the student after the shooting happened:
He said he pretended to be dead, but when he got up, there were two people shot. He’s really shaken up. He’s normally a really strong kid - but he’s just shocked.”
At the Broward Health North hospital system, officials told reporters that the suspect was taken to the hospital and released to police custody. At this facility, three patients are in critical condition and three are in stable condition, as of around 7pm local time. Two died there.
The Broward County sheriff said that police found “very, very disturbing” material when searching the social media of Cruz, the suspect: “We have already began to dissect his websites and the social media that he was on. Some of the things that have come to mind were very, very disturbing.”
Suspect was expelled from school
More from the sheriff’s press conference:
-Twelve victims were killed in the building, two just outside, one in the street and two died in hospital.
-The suspect Nikolaus Cruz, 19, was expelled from the school for disciplinary reasons.
-He had countless magazines and an AR-15 rifle.
Sheriff: 17 dead
The sheriff has just confirmed that 17 people are dead.
The suspect was identified as 19-year-old Nikolaus Cruz.
Oliver Laughland is reporting from the rendezvous point for families and students in south Florida, and has spoken with a student who managed to escape the school.
As emergency helicopters hovered overhead, dozens of police squad cars blocked the road outside the Stoneman Douglas High School.
Dozens of family members had congregated underneath an archway beside the school, anxiously waiting for their children who remained inside. By Wednesday evening the Swat operation to clear the high school, which enrolls close to 3,000 pupils, was not over.
A 15 year-old student who did not want to be named told the Guardian he had been in the same building where the gunman opened fire.
“I heard three gunshots,” the student said. “And then some more down the corridor.”
“We shut our classroom door and stood to the side of it so we wouldn’t be seen. Twenty minutes later the police broke in through the glass,” he said. “I was terrified.”
Erica Lafferty, whose mother, Dawn Hochsprung, principal of Sandy Hook elementary school, died in the 2012 mass shooting, has responded to Donald Trump’s tweet saying “no child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school”.
Here’s a breakdown of school shootings so far this year:
Witness accounts from the school
Teacher Melissa Falkowski, who hid in a closet at the school before she was able to get away, told CNN: “This is the worst nightmare scenario, horrible. ... Society failed those people today.”
She said she hid 19 students in a closet.
Caesar Figueroa told the Associated Press he was one of the first parents to arrive at the school and saw police officers bring out large weapons as they approached. He told the AP:
My wife called me that there was an active shooter and the school was on lockdown. I got on the road and saw helicopters, police with machine guns. It was crazy and my daughter wasn’t answering her phone.”
Figueroa said his 16-year-old daughter texted him that she was hidden inside a closet at school with friends: “She was in a classroom and she heard gunshots by the window. She and her friends ran into the closet.”
Beth Feingold told the AP that her daughter sent a text at 2:32 pm saying “We’re on code red. I’m fine.” The daughter later texted: “Mom, I’m so scared.”
The girl was eventually able to leave the school and was not injured.
More from sherrif Scott Israel’s press conference:
We believe at this point that all children we know about are cleared and are outside the building. However, we don’t know if there are injured people, we don’t know if there are people hiding. So we will not begin to open up the crime scene until the Swat component says the school is safe and clear.”
He also said the shooting was personal: “My very own triplets went to that school and graduated from Stoneman Douglas. They played football at that school, so it’s catastrophic. There really are no words.”
Florida governor Rick Scott also said he is now on his way to Broward County:
Eighth school shooting of 2018
Seven weeks into the new year, there have been eight shootings at American schools that have resulted in injury or death.
Less than a month ago, a 15-year-old student opened fire at a high school in Kentucky, leaving two students dead and eighteen injured. Other incidents have been smaller: in early February, one student in Los Angeles was shot in the head, and another in the arm, when a gun concealed in a fellow student’s backpack went off.
“We’re lessening the threshold of how crazy someone needs to be to commit a mass shooting,” Austin Eubanks, who survived the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, told the Guardian last fall in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting. Eubanks said he has watched the increasing pace of mass shootings with fear and anxiety.
The latest school shooting comes as Gays Against Guns, one of the many gun control groups formed in the wake of one of America’s mass shootings, were delivering “bloody Valentines” to members of Congress in Washington to push for stricter gun laws.
Congress has refused to tighten restrictions on gun ownership, even after 20 children and six educators were massacred in 2012 in an elementary school in Connecticut. The fifth year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December passed quietly, with Congressional Republicans refusing to pass new gun control laws, and instead pushing for a law that would weaken gun restrictions nationwide and make it easier to carry a concealed weapon across state lines.
Donald Trump won the White House campaigning on a promise to support the National Rifle Association and oppose any limits to Americans’ right to own guns. In all, guns have been fired on school property in America at least 18 times this year, according to incidents tracked by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group. In eight of these cases, a gun was fired on school property, but no one was injured. Another two incidents were gun suicides, claiming the lives of one student and one adult on school property.