PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) – A shooter opened fire at a Florida high school Wednesday, killing “numerous” people, sending students running out into the streets and SWAT team members swarming in before authorities took the shooter into custody.
Frantic parents rushed to the scene and ambulances converged in front of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Live footage showed emergency workers appearing to treat possibly wounded people on the sidewalks.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office tweeted Wednesday afternoon that “I’m saddened to say that 17 people lost their lives” The tweet added: “Victims have been and continue to be transported to Broward Health Medical Center and Broward Health North hospital.”
Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said there were “numerous fatalities.”
It is a horrific situation.” He added, “It is a horrible day for us.”
Len Murray’s 17-year-old son, a junior at the school, sent his parents a chilling text around 2:30pm: “Mom and Dad, there have been shots fired on campus at school. There are police sirens outside. I’m in the auditorium and the doors are locked.”
A few minutes later, he texted again: “I’m fine.”
Television footage showed police in olive fatigues, with weapons drawn, entering the school, then dozens of children frantically running and walking quickly out. A police officer waved the students on, urging them to quickly evacuate. Some students exited the building in single-file rows with hands raised overhead to show they carried no weapons. Others held onto other students as they made their way out past helmeted police in camouflage with weapons drawn.
The Broward Schools department said on its website that students and staff heard what sounded like gunfire and the school immediately went on lockdown.
Murray said he raced to the school only to be stopped by authorities under a highway overpass within view of the school buildings. He said he told his son to save his battery and stop texting, while the boy’s mother told him to turn off his ringer.
No information has been provided yet to parents, he said. “I’m scared for the other parents here. You can see the concern in everybody’s faces. Everybody is asking, ‘Have you heard from your child yet?'” Murray said.
Murray said he’s had just one thought running through his mind since he got his son’s text: “All I keep thinking about is when I dropped him off this morning – I usually say, ‘I love you,’ and I didn’t think morning. He’s 17, he’s at that age, and I didn’t say it this morning, and I’m just kicking myself right now over and over and over. Say it early and often, I’m telling you.”
The high school is a sprawling complex set on a tract in the South Florida community of Parkland, about 45 miles (70 kilometers) north of downtown Miami.
The school had just over 3,100 students in the 2016-2017 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Major streets run along two sides and an expressway passes nearby on the other not far from a residential neighborhood of single family homes.
Associated Press writer Jennifer N. Kay contributed to this report.