A gunman opened fire Wednesday at a high school in Florida. The incident caused fatalities and left students in their classrooms terrified, sending messages to friends and family asking for help. Police said a suspect was arrested after the incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a city about 80 kilometers north of Miami.
The shooting, one of 18 recorded in the United States since the beginning of the year, puts the country’s epidemic of gun violence and easy access to guns back on the table, with 33,000 gun-related deaths annually.
County school district superintendent Robert Runcie told CNN that he believed there were “numerous deaths” and that the attacker may have been a former student.
“It’s a horrible day for us,” he said. So far, 14 “victims” had been identified and taken to local hospitals, the county police said. According to previous reports, between 20 and 50 people had been injured.
“This is a very tragic situation for everyone involved,” Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky told CNN.
“They were very scared,” she said. “And almost in shock when they came out.
When asked about security, the mayor said there was always a police officer on the premises and that the school, which is attended by about 3,000 students, had a “single point of entry.
Television images showed police officers wearing helmets, bulletproof vests and automatic weapons parked at various points around the school complex. One wounded person was taken to an ambulance on a stretcher.
“Everyone started running.” Student Jeiella Dodoo told CBS News that she and her classmates evacuated her classroom calmly after hearing what they thought was a routine drill.
“The alarm went off, so we evacuated,” she said. “Then we heard gunshots.
“I heard six shots. And then some people started running, and then everyone started running because we thought, ‘If it’s real, then just run,'” he said.
A math teacher at the school told CBS that he had hidden with six of his students.
“We’re fine. We’re waiting,” he said. Caesar Figueroa told CNN that his daughter was hiding in a closet, texting her family.
“She’s with 10 friends. He said he heard gunshots. A window burst and everyone was screaming and running. He said he ran to the closet and is still there,” she said.
The shooting left at least 15 dead. “No child should feel insecure.” President Donald Trump offered his condolences on Twitter.
“My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible shooting in Florida,” he said. “No child, teacher or anyone else should feel unsafe in an American school,” he added.
Since January 2013, “there have been at least 283 school shootings across the country, which averages one school per week,” according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit group that promotes gun control.
Since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were shot dead, alert procedures and emergency drills have multiplied in U.S. schools. The goal is to teach schoolchildren how to react to a person who opens fire at random.