Florida, US (BBN) – At least 17 people are dead after a 19-year-old man opened fire at a high school campus in Parkland, Florida, police have said.
The suspect has been named as Nikolas Cruz, 19, and is a former student at the school who had been expelled, reports BBC.
As the attack unfolded students were forced to hide as police swooped in on the building.
It is one of the deadliest school shootings since 26 people were killed at a Connecticut school in 2012.
AS IT HAPPENED: FLORIDA SCHOOL GUNMAN SHOOTS ‘DOZENS’
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters Mr Cruz killed three people outside the school, before entering the building and killing another 12.
Two people later died after being taken to hospital.
“It’s catastrophic. There really are no words,” Sheriff Israel tweeted later.
Dr Evan Boyar of Broward Health told reporters late on Wednesday that 17 people total had been taken to area hospitals.
He added that Mr Cruz was among those treated and was released into police custody. Three people remained in a critical condition and three others were in stable condition, he said.
The victims are still being identified. Sheriff Israel said a football coach was among the dead but no names have been released.
HOW THE ATTACK UNFOLDED
On Wednesday, the local public school district tweeted that “students and staff heard what sounded like gunfire” just before the end of the day at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Witnesses said that the suspect pulled a fire alarm before the violence erupted.
Police and SWAT team members swarmed the campus and began clearing students from the school in Parkland, about an hour north of Miami, as parents and ambulances converged on the scene.
Mr Cruz, who had been expelled for “disciplinary reasons”, was taken into custody without incident in the nearby town of Coral Springs about an hour after he left the high school, according to police.
“We have already begun to dissect his websites and things on social media that he was on and some of the things… are very, very disturbing,” Sheriff Israel said.
“Just a horrible day for us,” said Robert Runcie, the superintendent of the county’s school district.
Many students said they thought it was a drill after hearing the fire alarm go off shortly before the shooting.
Students told US media they hid under desks, in closets or barricaded doors as loud shots rang out.
One student, Bailey Vosberg, said: “I heard what sounded like fireworks and I looked at my friend and he asked me if I heard that.”
“Immediately, I knew. I didn’t say anything to him, I just hopped over the fence and I went straight to the road that our school is located on – and as I got there there was just Swat cars and police units, police vehicles just flying by, helicopters over the top of us.”
Caesar Figueroa, a parent, told CBS News his daughter was hiding in a closet when she called him.
He told the news outlet earlier that he told her not to call him because he did not want the gunman to hear her voice.
“It’s the worst nightmare not hearing from my daughter for 20 minutes, it was the longest 20 minutes of my life,” Mr Figeuroa said.
A teacher told WSVN that she hid in a closet with 19 students for 40 minutes – and that the school had undergone training for such a situation six weeks ago.
WHAT’S THE REACTION BEEN?
Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that the shooting was “designed & executed to maximize loss of life”.
My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.
Congressman Ted Deutch, the district’s representative, tweeted: “I’m sick about this news from home. Just spoke with the sheriff. This is devastating.”
He said it was an “incredible school in my district – great teachers and staff, involved parents and amazing kids. Spoke with the kids there just a few weeks back.”
SANDY HOOK SENATOR: ‘THIS HAPPENS NOWHERE ELSE’
How does it compare with previous school shootings?
Wednesday’s attack is at least the 18th shooting in the US this year on or around school premises, according to research by Everytown for Gun Safety.
It is the sixth school shooting incident in 2018 that has either wounded or killed students, according to the advocacy website.
Since 2013, there have been 291 reported school shootings in America, which averages out to about one per week.
It is thought to be one of the worst shootings since 2012, when gunman Adam Lanza attacked Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
He shot dead 20 young children and six adults before killing himself.