17 students and teachers killed at public high school in Parkland, Florida

Photo courtesy of abcnews.com.

By Boris Zymbyulev || Staff Writer

17 people were shot dead on Wednesday, February 14, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was a former student at the school who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons, and has been described as a “troubled kid” by reports from faculty, administrators, and other students.

On Wednesday, Nikolas Cruz arrived at Stoneman Douglas High School at 2:19pm with an UBER. He carried a black backpack, where he had stashed a semi automatic AR-15 rifle and a number of of loaded magazines. The rifle had been purchased legally by Cruz in February 2017. According to reports the shooter remained only in the freshman building. He shot in 5 classrooms and hallways on the first and second floors, before getting rid of the weapon and leaving the premise by blending in the chaos. Later Nikolas Cruz allegedly stopped by a Wall-mart, a Subway, and a McDonald’s before he was caught by the police at 3:41pm. Officer Michael Leonard, who arrested him without trouble, noted that Mr. Cruz looked very much like a “typical high school student” at the moment.

President Trump’s first public response to the event was through Twitter, where he began with, “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.” Following that the President continued that he was already working with Florida Governor Rick Scott. On the following day, the national address was aired, where the President called for unity in the face of tragedy, but also focused on mental health, and not so much on gun control.

Gordon Weekes, the Broward County’s chief assistant public defender informed the press that Mr. Cruz is held at the county’s jail without bond, and has been put on suicide watch. Additionally, Thursday, February 15, Mr. Cruz was accused of 17 counts of premeditated murder. As the police is still trying to piece the story of Mr. Cruz’s life, it seems that the shooter has been suffering from significant mental illness. Weekes, and Cruz’s public defender, Melisa McNeill, both stressed that this needs to be taken into account as the judicial process continues.

On Thursday afternoon, the Anti-Defamation League reported that a white supremacist organization called the Republic of Florida had informed them that Mr. Cruz had some militant training with them. The spokesperson from ROF was named Jordan Jereb. The story was then quickly picked up by ABC, the Associated Press, NYT and many more other media sources. However, a few hours later, Jordan Jereb backtracked his statement; additionally, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel reported in a press conference that there’s no confirmed connection between ROF and Nikolas Cruz. Later the story was traced back by the ADL to several threads on Discord and 4chan. Politico contacted Joan Donovan, a researcher who tracks online misinformation campaigns for Data & Society, a think tank in New York City, who called the tactics used by trolls on these two platforms as “source hacking.” Politico also reported that some of the trolls participated in conversations with journalists from ABC and NYT and purposefully fed them misinformation.

On Friday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation admitted to being informed about Nikolas Cruz, but that they failed to act upon the information. On January 5, a person close to the gunman called the FBI to tell them of “Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting” according to a statement by the Bureau. Mr. Cruz had an extensive social media history, where he would showcase his guns and be prone to animal cruelty. Additionally, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Florida Governor Rick Scott criticized the FBI and its director Christopher Wray for failing to act upon the information. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to Reuters, has ordered a review of the Bureau and the Department of Justice procedures.

Sophomore Boris Zyumbyulev is a staff writer. His email is bzyumbyu@fandm.edu.

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