'He had absolutely no facial expression,' survivor says of Parkland school shooter

Samantha Fuentes has shrapnel in her face, both legs

By Terrell Forney - Reporter, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

PARKLAND, Fla. - Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor Samantha Fuentes has shrapnel lodged behind the lobe of her right eye and bullet fragments in both legs. She has stitches on her face and a bruise around her eye.

"Only just a centimeter over or an inch over from where I was sitting could have fatally ended my life," Fuentes said.

The 18-year-old senior was inside building 12's classroom 1214 when former student Nikolas Cruz, whom authorities said confessed to the shooting, started to fire his AR-15 semiautomatic rifle at classrooms 1215 and 1216. He moved on to her classroom next.

Fuentes said the Valentine's Day shooting interrupted a conversation about hate groups and the history of the Holocaust. She said she was able to identify Cruz as he aimed a weapon that he was able to purchase legally when he was 18 years old.

"He never entered the classroom. He shoved his barrel through the window of the glass and started spraying the room," Fuentes, a cadet with the school's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, told Local 10 News. "When the shooting stopped, I looked up and I looked at the window and he was standing there, just looking in. He had absolutely no facial expression whatsoever."

Fuentes said she saw two 17-year-old students -- Helena Ramsay and Nicholas Dworet -- get killed. They were among the 17 who died in the school shooting. She was shot in the left leg just above the knee. She was among the dozens wounded who were hospitalized.  

"The whole room was sprayed with bullets and I had one single balloon that I bought that day for my mom, and it didn't pop," Fuentes said. 

A classmate recorded a video that shows the bloodshed and the Valentine's Day balloon she wasn't able to take home. The teenager spent several days at Broward Health North recovering. She got to work as soon as she was released from the hospital. 

If the shrapnel behind her eye migrates with time, Fuentes will have to undergo a very risky procedure. She is also dealing with survivors' guilt. She said it is that feeling that is empowering to tell her story and to do what she can to prevent this from happening to other students.

"Especially because, more than ever, we have a voice now," Fuentes said.

Aside from her two classmates, Fuentes also lost three fellow JROTC members, 14-year-old cadets Alaina Petty and Martin Duque and 15-year-old Peter Wang. 

Fuentes said she feels lucky to have survived.

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