Students, Employees Killed In Russia School Shooting

Police investigators work at the scene of a shooting at School No. 175 in Kazan, the capital of Russia’s republic of Tatarstan, on May 11, 2021. (Photo by Handout / Press service of the President of Republic of Tatarstan / AFP)

 

At least seven people were killed Tuesday, most of them children, in a shooting at a high school in the central Russian city of Kazan, officials and news agency reports said.

Officials said at least one gunman had been involved and detained, though there were unconfirmed reports of two attackers including one who had been killed.

A police spokesman said officers were dispatched to School No. 175 in Kazan, the capital of the Russian republic of Tatarstan, after reports of shots being fired.

Amateur footage on social media, apparently filmed from a nearby building, showed people escaping from the school by jumping from second- and third-floor windows, with sounds of gunshots echoing in the schoolyard.

Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said seven children had been killed and 16 people wounded.

The mayor of Kazan said eight people had been killed, while Russian news agencies, citing official sources, said 11 people had died.

There were initial reports of two shooters, with one reportedly barricaded on the fourth floor of the building and killed, but officials later said a lone attacker had been responsible.

The Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes in Russia, said a local resident born in 2001 had been detained in connection with the attack.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a review of gun control laws after the shooting, while the authorities declared a day of mourning for Wednesday.

 

– ‘Major tragedy’ –

Tatarstan regional leader Rustam Minnikhanov arrived at the scene and entered the school after it had been declared secure by law enforcement.

“We are deeply saddened that this has happened,” Minnikhanov said in televised remarks. “It’s a major tragedy for our republic.”

He said earlier that four boys and three girls were among those killed.

“Sixteen more people are in hospital,” Minnikhanov said, including 12 children and four adults.

He described the detained assailant as a “terrorist” and said the 19-year-old shooter had a licence to carry a firearm.

Images broadcast on state television showed dozens of people outside the school with fire services and police vehicles lining nearby streets.

“I was in class, I first heard an explosion, then gunshots,” news agency TASS quoted a student as saying.

Elena, a Kazan resident who said she was outside the school, told the Echo of Moscow radio station that law enforcement was removing people from outside the premises.

“Parents are crying, medics are giving out medicine. People are hysterical,” she told the radio station.

Putin expressed his “deep condolences” to the victims and ordered a review of gun control legislation, the Kremlin said.

“The president gave an order to urgently work out a new provision concerning the types of weapons that can be in civilian hands, taking into account the weapon” used in the attack, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

 

– Tight school security –

Russia has relatively few school shootings due to normally tight security in education facilities and the difficulty of buying firearms legally, although it is possible to register hunting rifles.

In November 2019, a 19-year-old student in the far eastern town of Blagoveshchensk opened fire in his college, killing one classmate and injuring three other people before shooting himself dead.

In October 2018, a teenage gunman killed 20 people at the Kerch technical college in Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The 18-year-old attacker, who also set off explosives in one of the school’s buildings, shot himself dead at the site.

He was shown in camera footage wearing a similar T-shirt to Eric Harris, one of the killers in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in the US, which left 13 people dead.

Putin at the time blamed the attack on “globalisation” and online communities dedicated to American school shootings which promoted “fake heroes”.

The Crimea shooter, Vladislav Roslyakov, was able to legally obtain a gun licence after undergoing marksmanship training and being examined by a psychiatrist.

The shooting led to calls for tighter gun control in Russia.

The country’s FSB security service says it has prevented dozens of armed attacks on schools in recent years.

In February last year the FSB said it had detained two teenagers on suspicion of plotting an attack on a school in the city of Saratov with weapons and homemade explosives.

AFP

‘Multiple Victims’ Confirmed In School Shooting Near Los Angeles

California police are hunting a gunman after a shooting broke out at a high school north of Los Angeles, with “multiple victims” confirmed.

“This is an active shooter situation,” the local sheriff’s department tweeted, as police and ambulances swarmed the area around Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Los Angeles.

It said the suspect, described as a male Asian with black clothing, was still on the run.

The city of Santa Clarita tweeted that there were “multiple victims injured” in the early-morning shooting.

Police spokesman Bob Boese, speaking on the local NBC news channel, said there were “at least three” victims but cautioned that it was not clear if all victims had been located.

“Our deputies are doing a systematic search of the campus, still looking for the suspect,” Boese said. He said one weapon had so far been recovered.

No official details were immediately available on the condition of the victims.

Aerial video from the NBC affiliate showed students with hands raised being escorted by officers from the building, and led to a nearby church, as others stood outside the perimeter on their cell phones.

At least three ambulances were at the school campus, opposite a residential area, along with dozens of squad cars.

Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were among those responding to the scene.

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s department warned residents to stay clear of the area.

“If you live in neighborhood s anywhere near Saugus High, PLEASE LOCK DOORS and stay inside,” it tweeted.

AFP

US Expels Taiwanese Student Who Threatened School Shooting

File photo

 

The United States on Wednesday expelled a Taiwanese exchange student who had allegedly threatened to “shoot up” his school.

An-Tso “Edward” Sun, 18, was arrested last March after another student reported that he told him he planned to open fire in the school in Upper Darby, on the edge of the northeastern city of Philadelphia.

“Hey, don’t come to school on May 1st … I’m going to come here armed and shoot up the school. Just kidding,” Sun told the other student, according to prosecutors.

When police searched the room that Sun had been occupying with his host family, they found a semi-automatic pistol and 20 rounds of ammunition, as well a crossbow, arrows, and a bullet-proof vest, helmet and pants.

The mother of the host family told police that she had earlier removed from the student’s room more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition — including magazines for AK-47 and AR-15 assault-style rifles — and a homemade pistol, which the police took custody of.

On November 19, he was sentenced to time already served in prison and ordered to be deported from the United States and permanently banned from returning.

Sun was handed over to Taiwanese officials “without incident,” immigration officials said.

The United States experiences an average of one school shooting per week, according to a CNN count.

In February, a 19-year-old man killed 17 people in a school shooting spree in Parkland, Florida, while in May, a 17-year-old student, using a gun belonging to his father, killed 10 people in his high school in Santa Fe, Texas.

Shooting At Maryland High School, Facility On Lockdown

FILE PHOTO       ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

 

 

Barely a month after a shooting that left at least 17 students and teachers of  Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School dead in Florida, another shooting has occurred at Maryland high school.

Officials say the facility has been locked down as security operatives battle to put the situation under control.

The unfortunate shooting took place at a high school in the eastern US state of Maryland on Tuesday, leaving several people injured just days before a nationwide student-organized march against school violence.

Three people were shot in the incident at Great Mills High School, located about a 90-minute drive southeast of the US capital Washington, according to a county official quoted by The Baltimore Sun.

St. Mary’s County Public Schools said on its website that the school was on lockdown and the incident had been “contained” but provided no further details.

Law enforcement was on the scene.

“It happened really quickly, right after school started” after 8:00 am (1200 GMT), Jonathan Freese, a student at the school, told CNN.

“The police came and responded really quickly,” Freese said. “They had a lot of officers respond.”

“Right now, the police are going through classrooms,” he said. “Soon we are going to be escorted from the school.”

The Great Mills incident comes about five weeks after a shooting at a Florida high school left 14 students and three adult staff members dead.

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School launched a grassroots campaign for gun control following the shooting.

They have organized an event on Saturday called “March For Our Lives,” which is expected to turn out large crowds in US cities, with the main event in Washington.

Emma Gonzalez, a Stoneman Douglas student, tweeted her support Tuesday for her peers at Great Mills.

“We are Here for you, students of Great Mills,” Gonzalez said. “Together we can stop this from ever happening again.”

Under the banner #ENOUGH, tens of thousands of US high school students walked out of classrooms around the country on March 14 to protest gun violence.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan pledged to provide assistance.

“Our prayers are with students, school personnel and first responders,” Hogan said in a tweet.

 

 

Republicans Rejects Students’ Call For Tougher Gun Laws

 

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Paul Ryan (Centre) answers questions primarily focused on plans for the House of Representatives to address gun reform legislation during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol February 27, 2018, in Washington, DC. 
WIN MCNAMEE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AF

 

Republican leaders rebuffed calls for major changes in US gun laws Tuesday, blaming the mass shooting at a Florida high school on a “colossal breakdown” of law enforcement rather than the easy availability of assault rifles.

Student survivors of the assault two weeks ago met with members of Congress to press for curbs on gun sales but found little enthusiasm for legislative action beyond closing gaps in a national system of background checks.

“Let me just say we shouldn’t be banning guns for law-abiding citizens, we should be focusing on making sure citizens who should not get guns in the first place don’t get those guns,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters.

Ryan and other Republican leaders until now have largely been absent from the debate that has raged since a troubled 19-year-old armed with a semi-automatic rifle killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Ryan blamed the February 14 rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the failure of local authorities to heed numerous warnings about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, a former student at the school.

“There was a colossal breakdown in the system locally,” he said, citing lapses by the FBI and a deputy sheriff accused of failing to act when shooting broke out at the school.

Ryan’s argument echoed that of US President Donald Trump who asserted Monday that he would have charged into the school after the shooter, even without a gun.

Trump last week called for raising the minimum age for gun purchases to 21, but has made no mention of that since.

Instead, he has pushed for arming teachers as a first line of defense, an approach favored by the National Rifle Association but widely criticised by teachers themselves as impractical and an unreasonable burden on them.

Trump also has called for building more mental hospitals, a ban on devices known as “bump stocks” to make a semi-automatic weapon fire more rapidly, and better background checks to keep guns out of the hands of “sickos.”

A bipartisan bill currently before Congress would step up state and federal agency reporting to a national database of offenses that would bar an individual from purchasing a firearm.

Closer to home, Florida’s legislature is weighing whether to raise the minimum age for gun purchases to 21 as part of a package of measures sponsored by the state’s Republican governor. But a ban on assault rifles is not part of the package.

Gun ban

While some Democrats favor more comprehensive gun reform, they hold out little hope for it in a Republican-dominated Congress despite the new momentum created by student survivors of the Florida shooting, and polls showing overwhelming public support for stricter gun laws.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was to meet behind closed doors Tuesday with students from Parkland, where classes will resume on Wednesday, exactly two weeks after tragedy struck.

The students also met Monday evening with Representative Steve Scalise, the number three Republican leader.

Scalise was shot and nearly killed last June at a congressional baseball practice by a heavily armed man.

He said the session with the students was “very emotional.”

“Some of the things that they’ve been through are similar to some of the things that I’ve been through,” he said in an interview with CBS.

But they appear not to have swayed him on the assault rifle ban.

A ban on AR-15s “is not one of the big discussions here,” Scalise said.

“You can talk about any one weapon and if you ban that weapon, does that mean that nothing else is going to happen?”

Scalise later joined Ryan in arguing that existing gun laws needed to be better enforced, rather than overhauled.

“This speaks to bigger questions of our culture. What are we teaching our kids? Look at the violence in our culture,” Ryan said. “There are bigger questions here than a narrow law.”

AFP

I Would Have Run Unarmed Into Florida School, Says Trump

 

US President Donald Trump.  Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

President Donald Trump said Monday he would have rushed unarmed into the Florida school targeted by a mass shooter, as student survivors of the slaughter brought their campaign for gun control to Congress.

Nearly two weeks after the attack in Parkland, Florida left 17 people dead, US lawmakers reconvened after a one-week recess under intensifying pressure to address gun violence.

Trump has since called for reforms including tougher background checks on firearm purchases, but the White House has yet to announce support for specific legislation in Congress, where enacting federal gun restrictions faces major obstacles especially in an election year.

During a White House meeting with state governors, Trump said he would have felt compelled to confront the shooter.

“I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon,” Trump said. “You never know until you’re tested.”

Having previously criticised an armed deputy who failed to intervene in the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Trump also branded the performance of some local law enforcement “frankly disgusting.”

The deputy, Scot Peterson, pushed back through his lawyer, saying he positioned himself outside a school building because he believed the shots were originating from outside.

“The allegations that Mr. Peterson was a coward and that his performance, under the circumstances, failed to meet the standards of police officers are patently untrue,” lawyer Joseph DiRuzzo said in a statement.

Lunch with the NRA

Spurred to action by the shooting — the worst at a US school in six years — several Parkland survivors travelled to the US Capitol, where they met Monday with top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers.

Trump, who touted his Second Amendment credentials on the 2016 campaign trail, said he lunched Sunday with Wayne LaPierre, the head of the powerful National Rifle Association, and told him changes were needed.

“We’re going to do strong background checks. Very strong,” Trump told the governors. “If we see a sicko, I don’t want him having a gun.”

Trump has also called for boosting school security, and controversially, arming some teachers and staff in addition to on-campus guards.

Most Democrats want gun control efforts brought to fruition in Congress, and a new CNN poll showed that 70 percent of Americans support stricter gun laws, up 18 points since October.

But it remains unclear just what measures can pass Congress in Washington’s overheated partisan fog, and Republican House and Senate leaders have remained largely silent on the issue.

Senate Republican Pat Toomey and centrist Democrat Joe Manchin want to reprise their 2013 bill that would expand background checks to include purchases online and at gun shows.

Manchin told reporters Trump would need to express his support for the measure for it to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

Republicans from suburban districts, where calls for gun control have gained ground, have expressed openness to raising the age limit for purchasing semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, or banning devices that turn such weapons into machine guns.

Senator Susan Collins, a Republican moderate, said she also supports expanding background checks and addressing mental health.

“I definitely want to see the issue taken up,” she told AFP.

But many conservatives consider any tightening of gun laws a creeping assault on citizens’ constitutional right to bear arms.

“I don’t think we need more gun control, I think we need better idiot control,” said Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana.

The split appeared to leave the prospects of significant new gun legislation in doubt.

Some Republicans are pushing the so-called “Fix NICS” bill which would compel agencies to report information into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

“We must do much more than that,” said top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer as he touted legislation that expands background checks.

Doing so, he said, would require Republicans to “break free from the iron grip of the NRA.”

Emotional return to Parkland

With the gun debate raging, Parkland students and teachers made an emotional return to their school Sunday, setting foot on site for the first time since the massacre.

Staff returned to work on Monday, and classes were to resume Wednesday.

Parkland’s students, in the spotlight as they spur the conversation on guns, received praise Monday from First Lady Melania Trump, who said she was “heartened to see children across this country using their voices to speak out and try to create change.”

“They are our future and they deserve a voice,” she said.

AFP

Trump Defends Plan To Arm Teachers

 

US President Donald Trump leaves after speaking during the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, February 23, 2018.
SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

United States President Donald Trump, defending his controversial proposal to arm some of America’s teachers, said on Friday that a teacher with a gun would have “shot the hell” out of the teenager who went on a shooting rampage last week at a Florida high school.

Trump, in a speech to a conservative gathering near Washington, also called for stronger background checks for gun buyers and criticised an armed deputy who failed to intervene during the shooting at the Parkland, Florida, school which left 17 people dead.

Florida Governor Rick Scott announced plans meanwhile to station a police officer at every public school in the southern state and that the age for gun buyers would be raised from 18 to 21.

Trump, speaking to a receptive crowd of thousands of fellow Republicans at the Conservative Political Action Conference, said “well-trained” teachers could help stop school shootings.

“Maybe 10 percent or 20 percent of the population of teachers,” he said. “Not all of ’em, but you would have a lot.

“And the beauty is it’s concealed,” Trump said.

Referring to Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who attacked his former classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last Wednesday, Trump said “a teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened.”

Trump also criticized by name the sheriff’s deputy who allegedly failed to take any action against Cruz during the shooting spree.

“You had one guard. He didn’t turn out to be too good,” the president said. “He was not a credit to law enforcement.”

Leaving the White House for the CPAC event, Trump had even harsher words for the deputy, Scot Peterson.

“When it came time to get in there and do something he didn’t have the courage or something happened,” Trump told reporters. “But he certainly did a poor job. There’s no question about that.”

“They didn’t react properly under pressure or they were a coward,” he said.

The Broward County sheriff said Thursday that Peterson had resigned after being suspended without pay.

One police officer for 1,000 students

Speaking at a news conference in the state capital Tallahassee, Florida Governor Scott unveiled a $450 million plan aimed at improving school safety.

“I am proposing at least one law enforcement officer for every 1,000 students,” Scott said of stationing police officers in schools.

“My focus is on providing more law enforcement officers, not on arming the teachers,” he added.

Scott also announced plans to raise the minimum age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21 and ban “bump stocks,” an accessory which turns a semi-automatic weapons into an automatic one.

In his speech to CPAC, Trump praised the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful gun lobby which has long advocated for more armed security at US schools.

“They’re friends of mine, they backed us,” Trump said of the NRA. “They’re great people. They’re patriots.”

“It’s time to make our schools a much harder target for attackers,” he said. “When we declare our schools to be gun-free zones, it just puts our students in far more danger.”

Trump claimed his proposal to arm teachers, which has been strongly criticized by US teachers’ unions, was drawing support.

“I have to say since I started this two days ago a lot of people that were totally opposed to it are now agreeing,” he said. “They don’t want their students to be killed or to be hurt.

“So we have to do something that works,” he said.

Trump proposed measures preventing people who are mentally ill from obtaining weapons and “to strengthen up, really strengthen up background checks” for gun buyers.

“And I really believe that Congress is going to get it through this time,” he said.

The US Congress has been deadlocked on the gun debate, accomplishing nothing despite a spate of mass shootings and polls showing that Americans support stricter gun laws by a two-to-one margin.

AFP

Florida Governor Calls For Police Officer In Every Public School

Florida Governor Rick Scott,(R), and Broward County Sheriff, Scott Israel (L), walk up to the media to speak about the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
MARK WILSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

The Republican governor of Florida called Friday for a police officer to be assigned to every public school in the state, and for the minimum age for gun purchases to be raised from 18 to 21 in the wake of the Parkland mass shooting.

“I’m calling for a mandatory law enforcement officer in every public school,” Rick Scott told a news conference, as he unveiled a raft of safety measures in response to last week’s deadly rampage.

Scott said the southern US state “will require all individuals purchasing firearms to be 21 or older,” and intended to make it “virtually impossible” for anyone with “mental issues” to acquire a gun.

Students who survived the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have stepped up pressure on the governor to take action to protect their schools, demanding stricter gun control laws.

The self-confessed gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, legally purchased the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle used to kill 17 people at the Parkland, Florida school.

Scott, a Republican endorsed by the National Rifle Association, said the package of measures had been designed after meetings he held with some students.

The measures do not include a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons like the AR-15.

Instead, the state would raise the minimum age for all gun purchases to 21 from 18, and ban the purchase or sale of so-called “bump stocks,” devices that enable semi-automatic weapons to fire at rates akin to machineguns.

The plan calls for deploying a police officer for every 1,000 students in every public school in Florida from the start of the 2018 school year.

An additional $50 million would be made available for mental health initiatives.

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday also called for a ban on bump stocks.

The devices were used by Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 people at an outdoor concert October 1.

AFP

 

Trump Suggests Armed Deputy At Florida School Was A ‘Coward’

Trump's Lawyer Says He Paid $130,000 To Porn Star Linked To President
U.S. President Donald Trump                Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP

 

United States President Donald Trump on Friday cast doubt on the character of an armed deputy who failed to intervene during last week’s school shooting in Florida, saying he froze or was a “coward.”

“They’re trained, they didn’t react properly under pressure or they were a coward,” Trump said, calling out the school resource officer Scot Peterson by name.

“When it came time to get in there and do something he didn’t have the courage or something happened,” Trump said. “But he certainly did a poor job. There’s no question about that.”

The Broward County sheriff said Thursday that Peterson was present during Valentine’s Day rampage that left 14 students and three teachers dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but did not act to stop it.

Peterson resigned after being suspended without pay.

Trump has indicated he is weighing calls for a toughening of gun regulations in the wake of the Parkland shooting, unleashed by a 19-year-old former student armed with a semi-automatic rifle, but has also responded with a deeply controversial call to arm teachers.

On Thursday he doubled down on the National Rifle Association’s longstanding position that armed Americans were the first line of defense in confronting deadly attacks, saying: “To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.”

The US Congress has long been deadlocked on the gun debate, accomplishing nothing despite a spate of mass shootings and polls showing that Americans support stricter gun laws by a two-to-one margin.

AFP

Two Injured In Louisiana University Shooting

The hearse carrying Aaron Feis who was the football coach at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School heads to the cemetery after his funeral at Church by the Glades on February 22, 2018, in Coral Springs, Florida. Mr Feis was killed along with 16 other people by 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz at the high school on February 14th. PHOTO: JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Nine days after a massacre at a Florida High School sparked a national uproar over US gun violence, two people were injured in a shooting early Friday at Southeastern Louisiana University.

“University Police confirmed an incident occurred on North Campus involving several individuals. Gunshots fired, 2 individuals, suffered non-life threatening injuries,” the university said in a statement on Twitter.

Students were warned by the school’s emergency alert system at 4:01 am, it said.

“No present threat to the campus community,” it said, adding that university police were investigating the incident.

The incident at the university in Hammond, Louisiana, came amid a national debate over gun control sparked by the killing of 17 students and adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14.

President Donald Trump is under pressure to tighten US gun laws which allowed the Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz, to purchase an AR-15 assault rifle last year when he had turned 18, enter his former school and shoot dead 14 students and three adults.

Trump was to make a speech Friday morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington in which he is expected to detail his ideas for gun control, including the controversial proposal to arm teachers in schools.

AFP

Florida School Shooting Suspect Confesses To Gunning Down 17 People

This booking photo obtained February 15, 2018 courtesy of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office shows shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz. Handout / Broward County Sheriff’s Office / AFP

 

A troubled teen has confessed to gunning down 17 people at his former high school in Florida, court documents showed Thursday, as the FBI admitted it had received a tip-off about the 19-year-old gunman yet failed to stop him.

As Americans reeled from the country’s worst school massacre since the horror at Sandy Hook six years ago, President Donald Trump suggested the root cause of the violence was a crisis of mental health — and defied calls to address gun control.

Terrified students hid in closets and under desks on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, texting for help as the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, stalked the school with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle.

Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, appearing Thursday afternoon via video link before a judge who ordered him held without bond. More than a dozen other people were injured in the shooting spree.

“Today is a day of healing. Today is a day of mourning,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said.

After being read his legal rights, “Cruz stated that he was the gunman who entered the school campus armed with an AR-15 and began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on the school grounds,” court documents showed.

Cruz arrived at the school in an Uber at 2:19 pm, authorities said. Less than three minutes later, he started spraying multiple classrooms with bullets. At 2:28 pm, he left the campus, according to an official timeline.

Cruz told police that he discarded his rifle — which he bought legally in Florida — and tactical gear in order to blend in with the crowd so he could flee, the documents showed.

After the shooting, he stopped at a Wal-Mart and then McDonald’s, Israel told reporters. He was detained 40 minutes later after police identified him using school security camera footage.

In a sombre televised address to the nation in response to the 18th school shooting so far this year, Trump vowed to make mental health a priority — after tweeting about the “many signs” the gunman was “mentally disturbed” — while avoiding any talk of gun curbs.

Earlier in the day, Trump had asserted that “neighbours and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

Expelled from school for disciplinary reasons, Cruz was known to be fixated on firearms — and had reportedly been identified as a potential threat to his classmates.

But US authorities themselves were under scrutiny after the FBI confirmed it was alerted last September to a message posted on YouTube, in which a user named Nikolas Cruz vowed: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

In a statement, the FBI said it had carried out “database reviews and other checks” but was unable to identify the person who made the post.

– ‘Something was off’ –

A mugshot of Cruz depicts an ordinary-looking young man — cleanly-cut chestnut hair, hazel eyes, his face speckled with freckles.

But the information emerging since his attack suggests there were red flags that should have set off danger alerts.

“I met him last year, he was in my class at the beginning of the year and when I first met him, I knew that something was off about him and he was kind of weird,” Manolo Alvarez, 17, told AFP.

Fellow students knew he posted violent messages online, and on Thursday the Anti-Defamation League reported he was a member of a white supremacist group and had taken part in military-style training exercises.

Fifteen people were killed at the high school, and two later died in hospital.

One of those killed was Aaron Feis, a well-loved football coach in Parkland, a city of about 30,000 people located north of Miami where Trump was due to travel to meet the shocked community.

Many others were first-year students at the school like Gina Montalto, who was a member of the school’s winter colour guard squad.

Thousands of people turned out at numerous vigils throughout the day. Officials released silver balloons in honour of the 17 victims.

“President Trump, please do something. Do something. Action. We need it now. These kids need a safety now,” an emotional Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was among the dead, told CNN.

Carly Novell, a senior at the school who survived the shooting, said politicians must do something about gun violence.

“I just want people to stop, like, talking about it and then not doing anything. People keep, like, saying your thoughts and prayers and all of these things, but it doesn’t make a difference if nothing ever changes.”

– ‘We have to change’ –

While the latest shooting reignited questions about America’s gun laws, Trump — the first president to have addressed the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby — staunchly opposes any additional controls.

Opponents of gun curbs have sought to steer public debate onto the motives — and mental health — of people using the weapons.

But many have given up hope of meaningful reform in a majority-led Republican Congress riven by partisan rancour.

Since January 2013, there have been at least 291 school shootings across the country — an average of one a week, according to the non-profit group Everytown for Gun Safety.

“It is pretty clear that we’re failing our kids here,” said Melissa Falkowski, a teacher who squeezed 19 students into a closet at the high school to shield them from harm.

AFP

White Supremacist Says Florida Shooter Was Group Member

 

This booking photo obtained February 15, 2018 courtesy of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office shows shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz.   Handout / Broward County Sheriff’s Office / AFP

 

A troubled teenager accused of murdering 17 people at his former high school in Florida had white supremacist ties, it emerged Thursday, as the FBI admitted it received a tip-off about the 19-year-old gunman, yet failed to stop him.

As Americans reeled from the country’s worst school massacre since the horror at Sandy Hook six years ago, President Donald Trump suggested the root cause of the violence was a crisis of mental health — and defied calls to address gun control.

Terrified students hid in closets and under desks on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, texting for help as the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, stalked the school with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle.

Charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, Cruz appeared Thursday afternoon before a judge who ordered him held without bond.

In a somber televised address to the nation in response to the 18th school shooting so far this year, Trump announced plans to travel to Florida to meet the shocked community, located north of Miami.

He vowed to make mental health a priority — after tweeting about the “many signs” that the shooter was “mentally disturbed” — but avoided any talk of gun curbs to stem the bloodshed.

“My fellow Americans, today I speak to a nation in grief,” said Trump, calling on his fellow citizens to “come together as one nation” and “answer hate with love, answer cruelty with kindness.”

Earlier in the day, Trump had asserted that “neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

But US authorities themselves were under scrutiny, after the FBI confirmed it was alerted last September to a message posted on YouTube, in which a user named Nikolas Cruz vowed: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

In a statement, the FBI said it had carried out “database reviews and other checks” but was unable to identify the person who made the post.

‘Something was off’

Expelled from school for disciplinary reasons, Cruz was known to have firearms at home — and had reportedly been identified as a potential threat to his classmates.

“I met him last year, he was in my class at the beginning of the year and when I first met him, I knew that something was off about him and he was kind of weird,” Manolo Alvarez, 17, told AFP.

Troubling new details emerged Thursday about Cruz’s past, as the Anti-Defamation League reported he was a member of a white supremacist group and had taken part in military-style training exercises.

Jordan Jereb, believed to lead the shadowy Republic of Florida (ROF), told the rights group that his organization had not supported Cruz’s attack.

“Nobody I know told him to do that, he just freaked out,” Jereb said in a separate interview with The Daily Beast, adding that Cruz “seemed like just a normal, disenfranchised, young white man.”

“I don’t know precisely what he believes,” he said. “I know he knew full well he was joining a white separatist paramilitary proto-fascist organization.”

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel previously said authorities were dissecting Cruz’s social media history, and that “some of the things… are very, very disturbing.”

He also suggested the authorities were powerless to stop such crimes.

“If a person is predisposed to commit such a horrific event by going to a school and shooting people … there’s not anybody or not a lot law enforcement can do about it,” Israel said.

‘Failing our kids’

Fifteen people were killed at the high school, and two later died in hospital.

One of those killed was Aaron Feis, a well-loved football coach in Parkland, a city of about 30,000 people.

Two of the wounded remained hospitalized in critical but stable condition, while six others were on the way to a full recovery, officials told a news conference.

The school shootings are part of a broader epidemic of gun violence in a country that loses 33,000 people to gun-related deaths each year, two-thirds of them suicides.

While the latest mass shooting reignited questions about America’s gun laws, Trump — the first president to have addressed the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby — staunchly opposes any additional gun controls.

Opponents of gun curbs have sought to steer public debate onto the motives — and mental health — of people using the weapons.

Former Democratic president Barack Obama issued a new appeal for action Thursday, insisting “we are not powerless.”

“Caring for our kids is our first job. And until we can honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep them safe from harm, including long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws that most Americans want, then we have to change,” he tweeted.

But many have given up hope of meaningful reform in a majority-led Republican Congress where Obama failed to enact gun curbs amid partisan rancor.

Since January 2013, there have been at least 291 school shootings across the country — an average of one a week, according to the non-profit group Everytown for Gun Safety.

“It is pretty clear that we’re failing our kids here,” said Melissa Falkowski, a teacher who squeezed 19 students into a closet at the high school to shield them from harm.

AFP