Shooting Suspect 'always seemed like the unstable type,' Ex-classmate Says

CNN. com | 2/15/2018, 6:24 a.m.
A former student armed with a rifle stalked the halls of a Florida school, breaking windows and shooting terrified students ...
Students form a chain as they are brought out of the school. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

By Faith Karimi and Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

(CNN) A former student armed with a rifle stalked the halls of a Florida school, breaking windows and shooting terrified students in a massacre that left 17 people dead Wednesday, authorities said.

The suspect, Nikolas Cruz, 19, had once been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School over disciplinary problems, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said, without providing specifics.

Cruz allegedly turned on the fire alarm, sending many students running outside, where he fired shot after shot before following people inside the building, officials said.

There, he roamed the halls he knew so well, allegedly targeting those huddled in classrooms.

Former classmates said they were not surprised. He loved showing off guns, student Eddie Bonilla told CNN affiliate WFOR.

"We actually, a lot of kids threw jokes around Iike that, saying that he's the one to shoot up the school, but it turns out everyone predicted it. It's crazy," Bonilla recalled.

Alex Azar also said he remembered Cruz.

"He always seemed like the unstable type, the type who would do this sort of thing," Azar told WFOR. "He was always in trouble. ... He had that look to him, kind of sinister."

Cruz is believed to have concealed himself among the students as they fled the school, according to the Broward County Sheriff's Office. Investigators identified him from school security videos and arrested him later in nearby Coral Springs, according to police.

His first court appearance was set for Thursday morning.

The massacre

Just before gunshots erupted, the fire alarm blared.

At first, students were confused because there was a fire drill earlier that day. Investigators believe the suspect pulled the fire alarm to draw people out of classrooms and increase the number of casualties, a law enforcement source told CNN

When some students and teachers rushed out of the building, the massacre began. Others scurried back into classrooms as the school went into code red, signaling an active shooter.

Some texted goodbyes to loved ones, fearful they wouldn't make it out alive. Others posted social media images of chairs overturned in classrooms and floors stained with blood.

In one cell phone video, a student cried, 'Oh my God! Oh my God!" as gunshots popped in rapid succession in the background.

By the end of the rampage, 12 people were killed inside the building, two outside and one on the street. An additional two people shot at the school died after they were hospitalized, Sheriff Scott Israel said.

The school

A little before 3 p.m. ET, the Broward County Sheriff's Office responded to reports of a shooting at the school.

"We are receiving reports of possible multiple injuries. Law enforcement is on site," it said on Twitter. Law enforcement officers rushed to the school, where they found a grim scene.

Beyond the bodies and blood lay piles of backpacks and dropped cell phones, some still ringing as desperate parents tried to reach their children, a source told CNN.

Nicole Baltzer, 18, was in trigonometry class when the shooting started. When a SWAT team arrived to rescue them, she said, an officer requested they close their eyes as they passed by the classroom.