Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting suspect fired into 5 classrooms, sheriff says

Nikolas Cruz faces 17 counts of murder, being held without bond

By Peter Burke - Managing Editor, Todd Tongen - Anchor/Reporter, Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The suspect in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hailed an Uber to drive him to campus before he randomly opened fire at students, according to a probable cause affidavit released Thursday.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Nikolas Cruz fired into five classrooms Wednesday. 

Cruz, 19, was booked into jail early Thursday in Fort Lauderdale and appeared before a Broward County judge later in the afternoon.

"I've reviewed the probable cause affidavit, Mr. Cruz, filed in your case and I find probable cause," Judge Kim Theresa Mollica said. "I further find the proof of guilt to be evident or the presumption great. Therefore, Mr. Cruz, you're going to be held without bond until further order of the court." 

Flanked by his attorneys and surrounded by deputies, Cruz wore a red jail jumpsuit. He didn't speak in court and never made eye contact with the judge.

Israel said Cruz killed 17 people and wounded more than a dozen others during Wednesday afternoon's shooting at the Parkland school. He faces 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Israel told reporters Thursday that his office will do everything possible to ensure that Cruz "is convicted of all charges and that justice is served."

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz was booked into jail.

The sheriff said Cruz, who had been expelled from the school, used an AR-15 rifle in the shooting and was equipped with multiple magazines.

According to the affidavit, Cruz purchased the rifle in February 2017.

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were inside Sunrise Tactical Supply Thursday, where Cruz legally purchased the gun, and spoke with the owner for hours.

Nearby business owners told Local 10 News that the owner let the agents into the store early Thursday morning and appeared to be cooperating with the investigation.  

According to Israel, Cruz was dropped off at the school by the Uber driver at 2:19 p.m. The sheriff said Cruz entered an east stairwell in building 12 and began shooting into classrooms. One person was also shot on a stairwell, Israel said.

The sheriff said Cruz crossed a field and ran with other students who were fleeing the school, blending into the crowd. 

Cruz walked to a nearby Walmart where he got a drink at Subway and then went to a McDonald's, where he sat down for a short time, Israel said.

The sheriff said Cruz was taken into custody at 3:41 p.m. in the Wyndam Lakes neighborhood by a Coconut Creek police officer.

Authorities from numerous local law enforcement agencies, as well as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI have interviewed about 2,000 people so far regarding the shooting.

"It's going to take a lot of  time to sift through what's true, what's accurate and what's not," Israel said. 

The affidavit said Cruz was living with a family in Pompano Beach for the past few months and had his own room inside the home.

According to the affidavit, Cruz confessed to "shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on the school grounds." It went on to say that Cruz hid the additional loaded magazines in a backpack until he got on campus to begin the assault.

"He's a broken human being," defense attorney Melisa McNeil told reporters after court. "He's a broken child."

McNeil said Cruz's mother recently died and he fell through the cracks.

She said she feels horrible for the families broken by the shooting.

"Mr. Cruz feels that pain," she said.

A total of 17 shooting victims were taken to area hospitals.

Dr. Evan Boyar, medical director of Broward Health North's Department of Emergency Medicine, said the suspect was also treated at the hospital before he was released back into the custody of law enforcement.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, one patient remained hospitalized in critical condition, seven were listed in fair condition and one patient was listed in good condition. 

Israel said several "copycat threats" were made Thursday morning at other Broward County schools. He said deputies are investigating every "fake" threat and will charge those accordingly.

Robert Lasky, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Division, said Thursday that the FBI received information last year about a school threat made on a YouTube comment.

"The comment simply said, 'I'm going to be a professional school shooter,'" Lasky said. "No other information was included with that comment, which would indicate a time, location or true identity of the person who made that comment."

Lasky said the FBI was unable to identify who made the remark.

Israel said there was one school resource officer on campus at the time of the shooting, but the officer was in a different building than where the shooting happened and never encountered the suspect. 

President Donald Trump issued a proclamation honoring the victims of the Parkland school shooting, ordering flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and all public buildings. Trump also said he is making plans to visit the school.

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie acknowledged two heroes "who gave their lives" to protect the students -- athletic director Chris Hixon and assistant football coach Aaron Feis.

Runcie said the school district is offering counseling services for students, teachers and parents. He said hundreds of people were given counseling on Thursday and the services will be offered for the time being as needed. 

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said the state would pay for funeral expenses.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will remain closed through Friday. All school activities are also canceled for the week for the school, although activities at all other Broward County public schools will take place as scheduled Friday. 

Runcie said the school district would spend the next few days discussing a path toward reopening the school.

Cruz's next court date has not yet been set. 

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