On Wednesday afternoon, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz returned to the school he had been expelled from a year earlier with the intent to kill. He killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School before fleeing the scene by posing as a student. A timeline is now developing that will help those who work to prevent these attacks.
What happened before the shooting remains unclear. We do know that on Wednesday, February 14, 2018: At 2:19 p.m., an Uber car pulled into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Cruz was the only passenger, and he had his rifle with him, in a bag.
At 2:21 p.m. he entered the building where freshmen attend classes. It took him a moment to get his rifle from his bag, but he quickly began shooting into classrooms on the first floor. At some time during the shooting he pulled a fire alarm in an attempt to get students to come out of their classrooms.
Cruz then moved to the second floor of the building and fired into more classrooms. He was there only briefly before moving to the third floor. There, he ditched his gun and backpack and tried to escape the building.
He managed to blend in with other students who were fleeing the scene. Many of those students, and Cruz, headed to a Walmart that is adjacent to the school. There, Cruz stopped at a Subway and bought a drink.
He then moved to a McDonald’s, where he sat for roughly half an hour.
Meanwhile, students locked-down inside the school were texting. By 2:35 p.m., media outlets had picked up the developing story.
At 2:53 p.m. the Broward County Sheriff’s Office publicly acknowledged that a shooting was taking place. By this time, though, Cruz was at the McDonald’s.
By 2:55 p.m. media reports suggested there were five injuries in building.
During the aftermath, authorities from multiple agencies worked to clear the school. Many students were locked in classrooms, or hiding in closets. Though the threat was over, those inside could not be sure of that.
Most of these events end violently. The shooters almost always take their own lives or are shot by responding officers. When no shooter was found, the officers had no way of knowing where he had gone or if he had acted alone, so the lock-down continued.
While students inside were sending out images of the chaos, those inside the school were working to develop a profile of the suspect. Surveillance footage allowed them to identify Cruz almost immediately.
At 3:11 p.m. the Broward Sheriff’s office confirmed to the public that the shooter had not been apprehended.
By 3:15 p.m. students began running from the school grounds in large numbers. There are more than 3,000 students in the school, and the evacuation was orderly under the direction of the police.
So far we have at least 14 victims. Victims have been and continue to be transported to Broward Health Medical Center and Broward Health North hospital. #StonemanShooting
— Broward Sheriff (@browardsheriff) February 14, 2018
Meanwhile, a lose perimeter was established at intervals away from the school and police began searching for anyone matching the shooter’s description.
— Franklin White (@FranklinWSVN) February 15, 2018
At 3:41 p.m. Cruz was arrested without incident. He was spotted walking away from the school, more than a mile from the scene, by a Coconut Creek Police officer.
At 4:11 p.m., authorities announced they’d arrested a suspect.It was still uncertain if he’d been acting alone.
Cruz was experiencing “labored breathing” after his arrest. As a precaution, he was transported to a hospital at 4:27.
At this early stage, reports said as many as 14 people had been shot. Witness interviews, though, suggested there were significant fatalities. By 4:30, the Associated Press had confirmed the suspicion and reported there were “numerous fatalities.”
UPDATE: US official: Parkland school shooter identified as Nicolas Cruz.
— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) February 14, 2018
By 4:30 p.m. Nikolas Cruz has been named by media outlets.
Parents were prevented from getting close to the school. Around 5:39 p.m., many were able reunite with their children at a staging area established for the purpose.
"I'm saddened to say that 17 people lost their lives."- Sheriff Scott Israel #stonemanshooting
— Broward Sheriff (@browardsheriff) February 14, 2018
In a press conference at 6:27 p.m., authorities acknowledge 17 fatalities.
At 5:39 a.m. Thursday, Cruz was booked in to the Broward County Jail.
So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2018
BREAKING: Law enforcement official: Ex-student suspected in Florida school shooting legally purchased AR-15 rifle about a year ago.
— Tom Namako (@TomNamako) February 15, 2018
During the course of the morning Thursday, a more complete picture of Cruz begins to emerge. The rifle he used was purchased legally. Cruz was adopted, but both of his adoptive parents are deceased. Cruz had been living with a classmate since his expulsion.
We are grieving with Parkland. But 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.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 15, 2018
During this time on Thursday, the FBI had to go on the defensive. Cruz had posted a comment on a YouTube video in September of 2017 stating “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” Though the FBI had been alerted to the comment, and had investigated, they were unable to find who had posted the comment.
PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — Leader of white nationalist group has confirmed suspect in Florida school shooting was member of his organization
— Josh Lederman (@joshledermanAP) February 15, 2018
By 12:51 p.m. Thursday, the AP reported that Jordan Jereb, leader of a group called the Republic of Florida, had said Cruz was a member of their group. The Anti-Defamation League calls The Republic of Florida a “white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics.”
Jereb tried to distance his group from Cruz, and added that Cruz “acted on his own behalf of what he just did and he’s solely responsible for what he just did.”
Shortly after 2:00 p.m. Thursday, a judge ordered Cruz held without bond on 17 murder charges.