PARKLAND, Fla. (Reuters) – A former student at a Florida high school opened fire in the school on Wednesday, causing â€œnumerous fatalitiesâ€� and wounding at least 14 people before he was arrested by police, authorities said.
Shortly before dismissal at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, about 45 miles (72 km) north of Miami, the attack sent hundreds of panicked students fleeing into the streets while dozens of police and emergency services personnel swarmed the area.
â€œThere are numerous fatalities. Itâ€™s a horrific situation,â€� Broward Country Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told reporters.
The gunman, about 18 years old, surrendered to police quietly, said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.
â€œItâ€™s catastrophic,â€� he said. â€œThere really are no words.â€�
Fourteen wounded people were transported to area hospitals, Israel told a press conference said. He added that police in tactical gear were still searching the school for victims.
Israel offered few details on the shooterâ€™s identity or motive.
â€œThere was a time when he did attend the school,â€� Israel said. â€œI donâ€™t know why he left, I donâ€™t know when he left.â€�
It was the 18th shooting in a U.S. school so far this year, according to gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. That tally includes suicides and incidents when no one was injured, as well as the January incident when a 15-year-old gunman killed two students at a Benton, Kentucky, high school.
More than five years have passed since a gunman killed 20 first graders and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, stirring the long U.S. debate about gun rights, which are protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
A man placed in handcuffs is led by police near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a shooting incident in Parkland, Florida, February 14, 2018 in a still image from video. WSVN.com via REUTERSSCENES OF FEAR
Staff and students told local media that a fire alarm went off around the time the shooting started, sparking chaos as some 3,000 students at the school first headed into hallways before teachers herded them back into classrooms, to seek shelter in closets.
Kyle Yeoward, a 16-year-old junior, told Reuters he was in the bathroom on the second floor of the building on the campus where most of the shooting took place, when he heard two shots.
â€œHe let loose on the freshman building,â€� Yeoward said
McKenzie Hartley, 19, who identified herself as the sister of a student at the school described the scene in a text message to Reuters: â€œShe heard him shooting through the windows of classrooms and two students were shot.â€�
Panicked parents checked on their children.
â€œIt is just absolutely horrifying. I canâ€™t believe this is happening,â€� Lissette Rozenblat, whose daughter goes to the school, told CNN. Her daughter called her to say she was safe but the student also told her mother she heard the cries of a person who was shot.
â€œShe was very nervous. She said that she could hear the person who was shot crying out for help,â€� she said.
Televised images showed dozens of students, their arms in the air, weaving their way between law enforcement officers with heavy weapons and helmets, and large numbers of emergency vehicles including police cars, ambulances and fire trucks.
The school had recently held a meeting to discuss what to do in such an attack, Ryan Gott, a 15-year-old freshman told CNN.
â€œMy prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting,â€� U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter. â€œNo child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.â€�
Additional reporting by Steve Gorman, Dan Whitcomb and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Letitia Stein in Detroit and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Tom Brown