PARKLAND, Fla. — The 19-year-old accused of killing 17 people at his former high school told police after his arrest that he carried out the mass shooting, authorities said Thursday, apparently acknowledging his role in one of the nation’s worst school shootings. But police did not indicate what might have motivated Nikolas Cruz to shoot students and teachers in their classrooms on Wednesday, and investigators continued to delve into his troubled, violent life and the red flags that littered his path back to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
As Cruz remained held without bond on murder charges, authorities scoured the high school where they say he aimed his AR-15 assault-style rifle and fired round after round into classroom after classroom, leaving a trail of blood and agony before trying to elude police by hiding among those running to escape the carnage.
On the first full day after the school was transformed into a war zone, this idyllic suburb north of Fort Lauderdale grappled with a massacre that added its name to the ever-growing roster of places synonymous with tragedies in public spaces: Columbine. Newtown. Aurora. Charleston. Las Vegas. Sutherland Springs. And, now, Parkland.
The country mourned with Parkland, living through what has become a grim routine. Names slowly emerged on Thursday, revealing that the bullets cut down victims apparently indiscriminately, including a student who had recently gotten into the state’s flagship college, a senior who had just gained U.S. citizenship and a football coach who was working at his alma mater. Those killed ranged in age from 14 to 49, and the dead included nine males and eight females, police said. Most were teenagers, just one of them old enough to vote. Three were staffers.
The familiar response played out as the shooting again cracked open fissures in American politics and culture about guns, a debate that seems ever more entrenched. President Trump, in brief remarks at the White House, echoed Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) in emphasizing a response focused on mental health, eschewing the calls for stricter gun control that follow each attack. In this case, some of the loudest pleas came from students who survived the attack as well as grieving parents.