The mass shooting, which is said to be 18th incident in the year, seems to have rekindled a debate on the controversial gun control legislation in the US.
Lalit K Jha/PTI reports
An expelled former student armed with a powerful assault rifle unleashed a hail of gunfire in a Florida high school, killing at least 17 people and injuring over a dozen others, including an Indian-American student, in one of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States.
The 19-year-old suspect identified as Nikolas Cruz, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland who was expelled for disciplinary reasons, was arrested shortly after the deadly rampage on Wednesday.
The school has a large number of Indian-American students and at least one student from the community sustained minor injures after he was hit by splinters.
The ninth grader is being treated at a hospital.
Cruz was a troubled teenager who posted disturbing material on social media before the shooting spree, officials said.
“This is a terrible day for Parkland,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said, speaking of the city of about 30,000 people, located 80 kilometre north of Miami.
“Nicolas Cruz was the killer. He is in custody. We already began to dissect his websites and social media that he was on... some of the things that come to mind are very, very disturbing,” he told reporters at a news conference in Florida.
“He had countless magazines, multiple magazines, and at this point, we believe he had one AR-15 rifle,” he said. Reports said he was also equipped with a gas mask and smoke grenades.
According to investigators, Cruz pulled the fire alarm to draw people out of classrooms and increase the number of casualties, the CNN reported. But the school already had a fire drill earlier in the day, leading some to think it was a false alarm.
Israel said Cruz was expelled from the school for disciplinary reasons.
“I don’t know the specifics,” the sheriff said. However, according to media reports, Cruz was expelled last year after a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend.
The gunfire began outside the school and continued inside, where 12 of the victims were killed, Israel said. All of those victims have been identified, he said, but no identities will be made public until the families of all of those affected have been notified.
Israel, however, could not confirm the number of victim students.
Authorities said several victims were being treated in the hospital. Three of them are in critical condition.
“This is a sad day for the country and the community. We all Indian-Americans are praying for the victims,” said Shekar Reddy, whose friend’s son was among those injured in the mass shooting.
Parkland, with a population of 31,000 in 2016, was named Florida’s safest city last year, according to one analysis.
It is the deadliest school shooting since 26 people were killed at Connecticut school Sandy Hook in 2012.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting local officials in the probe. Federal and local authorities told NBC News that there was no indication that the gunman had an accomplice or accomplices.
US President Donald Trump offered his “prayers and condolences to the families of the victims. “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,” Trump tweeted.
The mass shooting incident revived debate over gun control in the US.
Florida Senator Chris Murphy termed it as “a horrific scene” playing out at a high school in South Florida.
“Turn on your television right now, you’re going to see scenes of children running for their lives. It’s what looks to be the th school shooting in this country, and we have not even hit March,” he said on the Senate floor.
The mass shooting, said to be 18th school shooting of the year, has rekindled the debate on the controversial gun control legislation in the US.
Murphy rued at the incident, claiming it was a fallout of “our inaction”.
Every day in this country, 46 children are shot, said Congressman Donald M Payne.
“Every day in this country, seven children die from gun violence. Those statistics do not occur in any other high-income country on this planet,” he said, urging the members of the US Congress to use their “power to make the world safer for all children.”
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said another American community is reeling from the horror of gun violence, perpetrated against innocent school children.
“Too many families have lost someone to the senseless epidemic of gun violence. Congress has a moral responsibility to take common-sense action to prevent the daily tragedy of gun violence in communities across America. Enough is enough,” Pelosi said.