What to Know
- NBC 6 captured Nikolas Cruz being taken into jail just before 6 a.m., where he was later charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
- Cruz was captured by officers less than an hour after he allegedly brought a weapon – believed to be an AR-15 – into the Parkland school.
- In addition to the 17 fatalities, more patients remain at hospitals across Broward County – including five in critical condition.
Nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz was booked into jail and charged with murder Thursday, less than 24 hours after he allegedly went on a deadly rampage at South Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in what became one of the deadliest mass school shootings in U.S. history.
A judge ordered that Cruz be held without bond, at a hearing Thursday afternoon. Cruz was wearing an orange jumpsuit with his hands cuffed at his waist during the hearing. His public defender Melisa McNeill did not contest the order and had her arm around Cruz during the brief court appearance.
McNeill told reporters Thursday that Cruz is fully aware of what's going on but he's also just a "broken human being." She became emotional while speaking to reporters, saying she's fully aware of the impact the shooting has had on the community.
According to an arrest affidavit, Cruz confessed to the shooting and said he brought extra loaded magazines for his AR-15 to the school and kept them hidden in a backpack until he got on campus.
"Cruz also admitted that as students began to flee the campus on foot he decided a plan to discard the AR15 and vest with the additional magazines so he could blend into the crowd," the affidavit said.
NBC 6 cameras captured Cruz being taken into the Broward County Jail just before 6 a.m., where he was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder — one count for each victim — after being questioned for hours by state and federal authorities.
At the hearing, Cruz only spoke when he was asked to confirm his identity, telling the judge, "Yes, ma'am." He has no juvenile or adult record, the Broward County Clerk of Courts said.
The shooting plunged the nation back into a familiar but nevertheless deeply painful conversation about how to prevent innocent children their losing lives. Students from the school have brought up the need to talk about gun control, but President Donald Trump didn't mention guns when he addressed the nation about the massacre.
"Our entire nation, with one heavy heart, is praying for the victims and their families," Trump said, adding "your suffering is our burden also."
He said plans were being developed to visit Parkland, home to the mourning school.
Cruz was captured by officers less than an hour after he allegedly brought a AR-15 into the school he once attended and started shooting. Officials say Cruz was expelled from the school last year for unknown disciplinary reasons. An arrest affidavit said Cruz purchased the gun in February 2017, and ATF officials said it was purchased lawfully.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said Cruz took an Uber to the school and carried the AR-15 in a soft black case. Officials say he was equipped with a gas mask and smoke grenades when he entered one of the state's largest schools, officials said.
He fired into five classrooms on two floors before dropping the weapon and fleeing, Israel said.
Cruz was wearing what appeared to be a Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps shirt from the school with an eagle logo on the arm. Students told NBC 6 that Cruz was a part of the JROTC when he attended the school.
Cruz tried to blend in with a group of students who were fleeing the scene, Israel said. He went to a nearby Walmart where he bought a drink at Subway, then walked to a McDonald's, Israel said. He was taken into custody by a Coconut Creek Police officer about 40 minutes after leaving the McDonald's, Israel said.
Twelve of the victims were found dead inside the school while three more died outside the building and two more died at an area hospital.
Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told reporters on Thursday that Cruz did not set off the school's fire alarms as originally thought - instead, it was the powder and smoke from the guns that set them off.
Israel said an armed school resource officer was at the school during the shooting but never encountered Cruz.
"This community is hurting right now," Israel said at a news conference Thursday.
Israel later released the names of the victims of the shooting. He said BSO is working with the FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement in the shooting investigation.
"These families are going through the most horrific time in their lives," Israel said.
The FBI said they investigated a 2017 comment made on a YouTube channel possibly connected to the suspect that said "I'm going to be a professional school shooter." Officials said they were unable to identify the person who made the comment.
Cruz purchased the AR-15 at a store in Coral Springs, Israel said. Federal law allows people 18 and older to legally purchase long guns, including this kind of assault weapon.
In addition to the 17 fatalities, more patients remain at hospitals across Broward County – including five in critical condition according to officials at Broward Health North Hospital.
Multiple students confirmed that there was a fire drill early in the morning, and when the fire alarm rang again later in the afternoon, "no one expected anything that was gonna happen," one student told NBC 6.
School board officials said staff and students heard what sounded like gunfire shortly before dismissal and the school went on an immediate lockdown.
Footage posted on social media showed students cowering under desks in one classroom as gunshots rang out.
NBC 6 spoke to the older brother of one student, who said his sister, a sophomore, was safe but "trembling in shock" at the scene unfolding at her high school.
"It's just complete chaos out there,” he said a short distance from the school. "She was numb."
The school will remain closed for the rest of the week, and all school activities have been canceled, Broward County Schools tweeted.
Runcie said Wednesday night that grief counselors will be available at locations across the area for students, staff and families.
"As we rise this morning let us pray for the victims and families of this horrific tragedy that has fallen on our community," Runcie tweeted Thursday morning. "Let us find the courage to transcend fear, greed, hatred & divisions and collaborate to achieve a new level of consciousness to find real solutions that include investments in mental health services for our youth and common sense gun control for this nation."
Prayer vigils will be held on Thursday at 2:35 and 6 p.m. at Pine Trails Park. All are invited to attend. Another vigil is being held at noon on Thursday at the Parkridge Church.
NBC 6 also spoke with a father who was able to communicate with his child inside the school. "I'm relieved that [the suspect] has been captured, at least that part of its over. The stress from this is too much." He said his child is safe.
"This is just the worst kind of tragedy," said U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents the district that includes parts of Parkland. "It's a great community and it's just so awful to see the images coming out of there."
Meanwhile, the leader of a white nationalist militia on Thursday said Cruz was a member of his group and participated in paramilitary drills in Tallahassee.
Jordan Jereb told The Associated Press that he didn't know Cruz personally and that "he acted on his own behalf of what he just did and he's solely responsible for what he just did."
Jereb also said he had "trouble with a girl" and he believed the timing of the attack, carried out on Valentine's Day, wasn't a coincidence. Officials haven't confirmed that he was a member of the group, and Lt. Grady Jordan, a spokesman for the Leon County Sheriff's Office in Tallahassee, where the white nationalist militia known as the Republic of Florida is based, said he knows of "no known ties" between Cruz and the group.