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Florida school grieves deadly shooting by teen suspect with troubled past

A routine day turned into terror at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday. Authorities say 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz has confessed to killing 17 people, and charged him with premeditated murder, as a clearer picture emerged of the deeply troubled young man and his motive. Special correspondent Steve Mort of Feature Story News joins Judy Woodruff for an update.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The school shooting in Florida, and its aftermath, have dominated this day.

    A report from the Broward County Sheriff's Office now says the teenaged suspect confessed to the attack. That word came as a city grieved for its losses.

    Reporter Steve Mort with Feature Story News begins our coverage.

  • Steve Mort:

    For Parkland, Florida, it's a date never to be forgotten, when a routine school day turned into terror.

  • Olivia Prochilo:

    I thank God for watching over me yesterday to make sure I was on the whole opposite side of the building, that my friends were OK, but I just find out this morning that two of my other friends passed away.

  • Steve Mort:

    Some held a vigil today to mourn the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

    The suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, appeared in court in Fort Lauderdale. He was ordered held without bond on 17 counts of premeditated murder, as investigators kept working the case.

  • Scott Israel:

    We will do everything we can, the FBI, ourselves, to make sure that this person is convicted of all charges and that justice is served.

  • Steve Mort:

    Police say Cruz's assault began at 2:30 in the afternoon, almost the end of the school day. Gunfire echoed through the building, as students huddled in their classrooms, an agonizing wait before armed police burst in to rescue them.

    They streamed out of the school, hands in the air, while emergency workers rushed to treat the wounded. Luckier students had tearful reunions with parents and friends.

  • Adam Habona:

    I feel like I'm in a dream. Like, I don't believe this is real. There's no way to describe what happened.

  • Steve Mort:

    Among the dead, Douglas High football coach Aaron Feis.

    Sheriff Scott Israel says Feis responded immediately to the shooter and may have prevented an even worse tragedy.

  • Scott Israel:

    The kids in this community loved him. They adored him. He was one of the greatest people I knew. He was a phenomenal man. He did it protecting others. You can guarantee that, because that's who Aaron Feis was.

  • Steve Mort:

    Investigators descended today on the home of the suspect, a picture already emerging of a deeply troubled young man. A former student at Douglas High School, Cruz was expelled for disciplinary reasons.

    The sheriff reported very disturbing posts by Cruz on social media, including one last fall in which he supposedly said, "I'm going to be a professional school shooter."

    But none of this helps restore normalcy to Parkland. Instead, it now finds itself another shaken community struggling to recover. And as people here absorb the latest in a never-ending string of shootings, many here are asking, where the carnage will end?

    David Hogg was barricaded in a classroom while the shooter opened fire.

  • David Hogg:

    We can say all these great things about, like, we — condolences and saying we're so sorry for your loss is obviously important. But what we need at this point is not to say that any more, because there shouldn't be any more children that die. We need to take action.

  • Steve Mort:

    In Washington, President Trump said he will go to Parkland to visit with victims and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.

  • President Donald Trump:

    To every parent, teacher and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you, whatever you need, whatever we can do to ease your pain.

  • Steve Mort:

    The president made no mention of gun control. But Democrats sounded new calls for action on guns.

    Congressman Mike Thompson, chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force:

  • Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif.:

    There's been 80 school shootings since this president was inaugurated. This is a crisis. There's not a parent or a grandparent in the United States of America who doesn't feel concerned about the safety of their children or their grandchildren.

  • Steve Mort:

    But majority Republicans, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, say stricter laws wouldn't deter someone determined to murder.

  • Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.:

    If someone's decided, I'm going to commit this crime, they will find a way to get the gun to do it. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have a law that makes it harder. It just means understand, to be honest, it isn't going to stop this from happening.

  • Steve Mort:

    Police say Cruz used a semiautomatic AR-15. It's the same model used in last year's Las Vegas massacre and in the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I spoke to Steve Mort just a short time ago, as we get new information from authorities.

  • Steve Mort:

    More details coming out from law enforcement officials here at a press conference just a short time ago here in Parkland, Florida.

    We understand that the suspect, Nikolas Cruz, did confess to carrying out this shooting rampage at the high school here, and he gave law enforcement officials some details during his questioning. One of the things he said that he did was he brought extra ammunition with him to the school, so he could carry on the shooting with his AR-15 rifle once he was out of ammunition.

    He brought more. He stored it in a backpack at the school, so he would have access to it. So, information there on exactly how he planned to carry out the attack. He said he started shooting people on the grounds and then inside the school itself.

    We got a timeline on how things unfolded. Apparently, he took an Uber to the school. He took an Uber at six minutes past 2:00 in the afternoon, finally arriving at the school at 2:19, which is when he entered the stairwell of the school and began shooting around 2:21.

    So, the timeline pretty much in line with what law enforcement officials have been telling us since the beginning, but we are getting more details now on what he did after the shooting. Apparently, he went to a nearby Wal-Mart, where he ordered food. He went to a Subway. He ordered a McDonald's meal.

    So, certainly chilling details which kind of give a picture of the kind of person maybe that had planned to do this kind of shooting and carried out this premeditated attack.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Steve, you have also been talking to some parents and some students.

  • Steve Mort:

    Yes, that's right.

    I have spent the day talking to several students and their parents here. And, of course, as you can imagine, it's been a very traumatic time for them. I spoke to one mother whose daughter had been in a classroom where their geography teacher had been shot. She saw the geography teacher on the floor shot and killed.

    She said she thought she heard somebody saying, "Help me, help me."

    The teacher had gone to the door to closed it. And that, she said, is when she saw the teacher shot. That's according to her mother, who was messaging, sending text messages to her daughter at the time, trying to keep her calm.

    I spoke to another student called Kelsey who was also in that classroom. She says she was sheltering in a cupboard with her friends. The shooter didn't enter the classroom, so, therefore, her friends were OK in the end. She said that the SWAT team at the school got them out very quickly.

    They told them to leave the classroom, to exit the school, not to look around them, not to look at anything that was going on, just keep their hands above their head, and leave the school as quickly as they could.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So many disturbing details emerging from this terrible tragedy.

    Steve Mort, joining us from Lakeland, Florida, thank you, Steve.

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