South Florida

'God, I Don't Like This Plan': As Funerals Begin for Mass Shooting Victims, Parkland Mourns and Wonders Why

At one point during a vigil on Thursday, some in the crowd began shouting, "No more guns! No more guns!"

What to Know

  • At least 1,000 people attended a candlelight vigil near the school Thursday night, as some openly sobbed as the victims' names were read.
  • Students who knew Nikolas Cruz described a volatile teenager whose strange behavior had caused others to end friendships with him.

At the first funeral for a victim of the Parkland school tragedy, mourners packed the Star of David chapel in North Lauderdale to remember 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff.

Those outside Friday stood and strained to hear the voices chanting Jewish prayers and remembering the star soccer player as having "the strongest personality." She was also remembered as a creative writer with a memorable smile.

"God had another plan, take Alyssa away from us" said her father, Dr. Ilan Alhadeff. "God, I don't like this plan. In fact, I'm angry about it."

Alhadeff's mother told NBC had loved soccer and played "the most magnificent game of her life" the day before she died.

"President Trump, we need change now, we need to make our schools safe now for all the children that are here," Lori Alhadeff told NBC 6.

Another victim, Meadow Pollack, was remembered at a funeral inside Congregation Kol Tikvah in Parkland. Family members said the "beautiful, warm, loving and intelligent soul" was looking forward to prom before graduating and heading off to Lynn University in the fall.

While Friday will be the day several families bury their loved ones, candles could be spotted as far as the eye could see Thursday night in Parkland and surrounding communities as family, friends and strangers came together to remember the lives lost in the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Nearly 1,000 people attended the vigil at the Parkland Amphitheater, including children who were inside the school when the shooter opened fire and killed 14 children and three adults.

"She heard gunshots," said Jodi Burke, whose daughter hid in a closet while the alleged gunman, Nikolas Cruz, started shooting. “She seems angry, she lost one of her best friends.”

Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, a native of the area and Douglas High School graduate, was one of the speakers Thursday, flying in from spring training in Arizona to be with his extended family.

“I’m only who I am because of this community and I just want all of you to know how proud I am of this community," Rizzo said. "I want you to know you’re not alone in your grief."

Two more vigils are scheduled for Friday: a noon event at the Baitul Naseer Mosque in Hallandale Beach and at the Pink Church in Pompano Beach at 7:30 p.m.

Also among the dead: assistant football coach Aaron Feis, slain while shielding students from bullets; Joaquin Oliver, a student known for his unique look and who once dyed his hair bleach-blonde with tiger stripes, and 35-year-old geography teacher Scott Beigel, who helped students enter a locked classroom to avoid the gunman only to be shot himself.

Among those attending that candlelight vigil near the school, some openly sobbed as the victims' names were read aloud.

Dressed in the school's red color, some held flowers while others wielded signs asking for action to fight school violence, including gun control. "Kids don't need guns. No guns under 21," read one sign.

At one point during the vigil, some in the crowd began shouting, "No more guns! No more guns!"

Ernest Rospierski, a teacher at the school, took several bracing breaths at the vigil as he talked to a reporter about the horror in the school halls.

"Bang bang bang — all of a sudden the shooting stopped," he said. "I looked down. He was reloading. I yelled run. And then I ran behind as many kids as I could."

The details of Wednesday's carnage at the high school emerged a day later from witnesses and law enforcement reports.

Cruz jumped out of the Uber car and walked toward building 12 of the school, carrying a black duffel bag and a black backpack. A man inside the school spotted Cruz, and knew he was a former student. A troubled kid. The man radioed a co-worker, and within a minute heard gunshots.

The 19-year-old was wearing a maroon shirt, black pants and a black hat. The man, whose name was blacked out from a sheriff's affidavit, told detectives Cruz was moving "purposefully."

He slipped into the building, entered a stairwell and extracted a rifle from his bag, authorities said. He shot into four rooms on the first floor — going back to spray bullets into two of the rooms a second time — then went upstairs and shot a single victim on the second floor.

He ran to the third floor, where according to a timeline released by the Broward County Sheriff's Office, three minutes passed before he dropped the rifle and backpack, ran back down the stairs and quickly blended in with panicked, fleeing students.

Florida State Sen. Bill Galvano, who visited the third floor, said authorities told him it appeared that Cruz tried to fire point-blank out the third-floor windows at students as they were leaving the school, but the windows didn't shatter. Police told Galvano that it was not that difficult to open the windows.

"Thank God he didn't," Galvano said.

From the time Cruz entered the building until the time he left, only six minutes passed. During that brief time, he shot more than two dozen people, including the 17 who died.

Two of the victims rushed to area hospitals were released late Thursday night while seven remain, including one in critical condition.

After the rampage, the suspect headed to a Walmart and bought a drink at a Subway restaurant before walking to a McDonald's.

About 40 minutes later after leaving the McDonald's, a deputy saw him walking down a suburban South Florida street and grabbed him. He didn't put up a fight.

Authorities have not described any specific motive, except to say that Cruz had been kicked out of the high school, which has about 3,000 students and serves an affluent suburb where the median home price is nearly $600,000. Students who knew him described a volatile teenager whose strange behavior had caused others to end friendships with him.

Cruz was ordered held without bond at a brief court hearing. He wore an orange jumpsuit with his hands cuffed at his waist. His attorney did not contest the order and had her arm around Cruz during the short appearance. Afterward, she called him a "broken human being."

Cruz was under a suicide watch, said Executive Chief Public Defender Gordon Weekes.

Wednesday's shooting was the 17th incident of gunfire at a U.S. school this year. Of the 17 incidents, one involved a suicide, two involved active shooters who killed students, two involved people killed in arguments and three involved people who were shot but survived. Nine involved no injuries at all.

Officials were investigating whether authorities missed other warning signs about Cruz's potentially violent nature.

He had been expelled from the school for "disciplinary reasons," said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who said he did not know the specifics.

One student said Cruz had been abusive to his ex-girlfriend and that his expulsion was over a fight with her new boyfriend.

Cruz had worked at the Dollar Tree store in Parkland, the retail chain said.

Two federal law enforcement officials said the Smith & Wesson M&P15 .223 was purchased legally at Sunrise Tactical Gear in Florida.

Cruz passed a background check and legally purchased the assault weapon from a licensed dealer in February 2017, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to discuss the information publicly, and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us