TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Lorenzo Prado, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was in Tallahassee on Wednesday with many other students calling on lawmakers to make changes to the state's current gun laws after last week's mass shooting that left 17 people dead at his high school.
Besides being one of thousands of other students and staff members who feared for their lives on Valentine's Day when Nikolas Cruz, 19, shot up the Parkland school, Prado said he also found himself being the target of law enforcement officials who mistakenly believed he was the gunman.
"I see my coach, Hixon, running inside for safety. I was scared and I ran to the safest place possible, which was the sound booth again, and I start to pace back and forth because I did not know what was going on," Prado said. "And the people in the audience saw me. They saw me and they panicked because I was matching the same description as Nikolas Cruz. I had the same clothes, same color, same facial structure … and they reported me."
Prado said he continued hiding out in the sound booth, and the the door suddenly started to rattle.
"At first, the only thought that came to my mind was, 'I am going to die. The shooter is going to kill me,'" Prado said. "But then the SWAT comes in, and I thought they were here to rescue me. But then as I go down the stairs, I found out that I was wrong. I found out that they thought that it was me who killed the 17 people."
Prado said authorities told him to put his hands up as he went down the stairs.
"I, being the fool that I was, tried putting my phone back in my pocket. And they demanded again and I, not trying to be one of those news stories of someone dying wrongfully because they refused to put their hands up, I just dropped my phone at that moment and kept going," Prado said. "When I went out those doors, I had six SWAT members pointing their guns at me. I was tossed to the ground, I was unjustly cuffed and held at gunpoint for the degrading and depreciating action of the disturbed individual, Nikolas Cruz."
Prado said he was then placed in a corner with one policewoman guarding him for the remainder of the evening.
"I knew any move I made would be the end of my life," he said.
Prado said he felt only two things during the ordeal.
"I felt fear, as I did not know my future," Prado said. "I did not know if I was going to be let go. I did not know where the terrorist was. I did not know how my friends were doing, and for that, I was afraid.
"The second thing was guilt. I felt guilty for closing the door behind me, I felt guilty for startling the audience, I felt guilty for the SWAT who had to pursue me instead of pursuing the murderer, I felt guilty for not contacting my mother, I felt guilty for Coach Hixon, whose life I thought I saved when he walked inside the auditorium, but whose life was ended when he walked out again."
Prado said he will no longer feel guilty because he will do everything in his power to demand change from the government to make schools safer and make it harder for people like Cruz to get their hands on assault rifles.
"We will make change in this country, and if not today, tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, the day after that, and the day after that until we achieve the change we want in this country -- until the day that safety is preserved in all schools in our beloved country of America," Prado said. "We students will keep fighting for our right to live.
"If I have to drop everything else in my life just to make these changes happen, I will, because to me to let these victims' lives be taken without any change in return is an act of treason to our great country. To let our fellow countrymen fall beside us without a fight back is, to me, equal to leaving a soldier to die in the battlefield."
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