[Students released from a lockdown embrace following following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. (John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)]
Parkland (Florida): A 19-year-old gunman returned to a Florida high school where he had once been expelled for disciplinary reasons and opened fire with an assault-style rifle on Wednesday, killing 17 people and injuring more than a dozen others before he was arrested, authorities said.
The shooting incident took place shortly before dismissal at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a placid, middle-class community about 45 miles (72 km) north of Miami, Reuters reported.
Television footage showed students streaming out of the building, many with hands raised in the air, as dozens of police and emergency services personnel swarmed the area.
The suspect, a male wearing a burgundy shirt, had been taken into custody by authorities before 4 p.m. EST.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel identified the shooter as Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student of the school. Israel said authorities have begun dissecting Cruz's background and social media history, describing some of the initial findings as "very, very disturbing."
Cruz's arsenal in the shooting, Israel said, including "countless magazines" of ammunition and at least one AR-15 rifle.
As a high school freshman, Cruz was part of the U.S. military-sponsored Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corp program at the school, according to Jillian Davis, 19, a recent graduate and former fellow JROTC member at Stoneman Douglas High.
In an interview with Reuters outside the school, she recalled his "strange talking sometimes about knives and guns," adding, "no one ever took him seriously."
Earlier in the day, Shepard Smith reported that there was a drill held at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
One teacher said to hold on - the noises [of gunfire] may have been from the earlier drill. A fire alarm rang two times in one day [drill was held earlier in the day], according to a student witness, according to Fox News.
It was the 18th shooting in a US school so far this year, according to gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. That tally includes suicides and incidents when no one was injured, as well as the January incident when a 15-year-old gunman killed two students at a Benton, Kentucky, high school.
More than five years have passed since a gunman killed 20 first graders and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, stirring the long US debate about gun rights, which are protected by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.
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