A former student unleashed a hail of gunfire in a Florida high school on Wednesday, killing at least 17 adults and children, authorities said.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered government flags flown at half-staff through Monday in honour of victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a public school of some 3,000 students outside Boca Raton.
The school is closed for the rest of the week, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said. The district will offer grief counselling to students and their families.
“This has been a day where we’ve seen the worst of humanity. Tomorrow is gonna bring out the best in humanity as we come together to move forward from this unspeakable tragedy,” he said.
The suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons, Runcie said. He is due in court Thursday.
The shooting, which is among the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern US history, revived debate over gun control while American politicians offered their condolences.
“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,” US President Donald Trump said.
Law enforcement responded to reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shortly before 3 p.m. and encountered a chaotic scene.
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. But the school already had a fire drill earlier in the day, leading some to think it was a false alarm.
While some left the building, others sought cover in classrooms as the school went into lockdown and the gunman went on his rampage.
Some students, fearing their lives would soon be over, texted goodbyes to loved ones; others used their phones to share startling footage of the carnage on social media.