tv ABC World News Tonight With David Muir ABC February 15, 2018 3:30pm-4:00pm PST
tonight, breaking developments in the deadly school rampage here in florida. we have new and searing images from inside the school. 17 people killed. the eruption of gunfire, firing into one classroom after another. the suspect armed with an ar-15, triggering the fire alarm. and then targeting victims as they tried to escape. >> everyone on the floor. on the floor. >> terrified students hiding, rescued by s.w.a.t. teams. the suspect stopping at a walmart, at subway, at mcdonald's after the rampage. tonight, the officer who found him describing the moment. the suspect, nikolas cruz, in court today. what authorities now reveal. what he allegedly told them. as we also learn more about his past. adopted, he lost the father who adopted him. then his mother dying from the flu this november.
and the warning signs from neighbors. the names and the faces of the victims revealed tonight. the hero teachers and the football coach. sacrificing their lives to shield their students from the gunfire. and our interview tonight with the survivors. the children, the students here seeing the gunman in the hallway, hiding in silence in closets. and president trump tonight, addressing the nation. what he says about mental health and the question he did not answer about guns. good evening on this thursday night. and we are here in florida, where a dark and troubling portrait has now emerged about the horror that played out here a little more than 24 hours ago. you can see the massive presence here behind me, authorities are still here on the scene of this school, the buildings from that large campus, right behind those trucks here behind us, where children piled into closets, hiding in silence, texting their
parents. so many of the students telling me today they told their parents they thought they were going to die. tonight here, new video from inside the school, students crying as their wounded classmates are carried out by police. then escaping the building themselves. and, of course, the nation now seeing those images, the students running for their lives. they told me they'd been taught with a code red is, an active shooter. then they heard those words. the suspect trying to blend in with the students, dropping his ar-15, then leaving the school. and tonight, right here, the officer who found him. 19-year-old nikolas cruz was in court today what he has now allegedly told police. and for the first time, we are seeing the faces of the victims. 15 of them students, two of them hero teachers. abc's victor oquendo with the new timeline tonight. the plot that unfolded here at the school and the chilling images from inside. and we should note, they are difficult to watch. >> holy -- >> reporter: that steady stream of gunfire breaking out at 2:21 p.m.
>> oh, my god. >> reporter: a school employee immediately calling a code red. students were supposed to be going home. instead, some would stay huddled together on lockdown for hours. >> shh. >> reporter: the suspect, 19-year-old nikolas cruz, a former student, had arrived in an uber. authorities tonight saying he was carrying an ar-15 rifle inside a soft black case. >> the suspect exited the stairwell, pulled the rifle out of the case. >> reporter: then, he began shooting into at least five different classrooms on two floors. >> he went from the third floor to the second floor. they're monitoring him on camera. >> reporter: a federal official says the suspect is believed to have triggered a fire alarm, adding to the chaos. >> the fire alarm got pulled and kids were evacuating. i heard five pops. >> reporter: many finding shelter wherever they could, hiding under desks, barricaded in classrooms. >> so, right now, we're in school, an active shooter. it's not a drill. i heard one gunshot. we thought it was a drill initially, but it's not. >> reporter: first responders on
thescene, desesesperatelyrying o track down the suspect. nearly an hour after the first shots rang out, some students still hunkered down. >> still believe that the person has been neutralized, but we're still currently on lockdown. >> reporter: but the shooter managing to slip out of the school with evacuating students. >> he dropped the rifle and backpack, ran down the stairs. >> white male, burgundy shirt, wearing a black hat and either long black pants or shorts. he mixed in with the group of students that were running westbound. >> reporter: with the suspect on the loose, a tense seen, as s.w.a.t. teams clear the building. students told to put their hands over their heads. first responders breaking glass to get into one locked classroom. >> everyone on the floor. >> reporter: some students begging for help. >> please helps. please help us. >> reporter: as the wounded are is carried away. >> we transported to three different hospitals, all those people in a very coordinated manner. >> put your hands up.
>> everybody has to put their hands up. >> reporter: one by one, each student led from the horrifying scene. >> let's go. stop looking. keep walking. keep walking. >> reporter: the evacuation still under way when police tracked down the suspect in a neighboring town, wearing that burgundy shirt. >> confirmed. nikolas cruz is in custody. >> reporter: more than 90 minutes after the rampage started, the sheriff announcing the shooter was in custody. >> and victor oquendo joins us tonight from outside the high school. and victor, we're learning more tonight about how the suspect managed to escape that school without getting caught? >> reporter: david, after allegedly shooting his last victim, police say the suspect ran to a stairwell on the third floor. from there, he dropped his rifle, he dropped his bag. he made his way to the tennis courts and from there, he was able to blend in with the other students. >> victor oquendo leading us off again tonight. victor, think. that suspect coming into sharper focus tonight. 19-year-old nikolas cruz, charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
tonight, what we're now learning about his childhood. he was adopted. he then lost that father as a boy. then the mother who adopted him dying of the flu just months ago. and his troubling posts on social media. were many signs missed? abc's tom llamas at the jail here in ft. lauderdale, where cruz is being held. >> reporter: today, the 19-year-old accused of hunting down and killing 7 people at his former high school led into court in shackles. >> are you nikolas jacob cruz? >> yes, ma'am. >> reporter: authorities now retracing his steps in the aftermath of the rampage. the alleged gunman on the run for about an hour. police say cruz stopped by a local walmart and a subway, where he bought a drink. he then stopped into this mcdonald's. he was finally spotted by michael leonard, a police officer from a nearby city. officer leonard had decided to join the search and started driving down a back rod when he spotted someone who fit the suspect's description. maroon shirt, black boots.
>> he looked like a typical high school student. and for a quick moment, i thought, could this be the person? is this who i need to stop? >> reporter: you see cruz here taken down and handcuffed. and tonight, authorities scouring his social media accounts, searching for clues and a possible motive. >> some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing. >> reporter: sources tell abc news this was cruz's instagram account. this photo shows him holding a pistol. in another, he's holding a large knife. investigators now piecing together the suspect's background. we know he was adopted as a baby. but his adoptive father died when he was just 4 years old. cruz, raised by a single mother. but late last year, she died, as well, unexpectedly, of the flu. cruz then went to live with the family of a friend. the family's lawyer tells us he at one point had been in therapy. cruz brought his ar-15 assault rifle with him. the family's lawyer telling us he kept it locked in a gun safe. this is the neighborhood where the alleged shooter grew up.
it's a nice neighborhood, the homes are big, the lawns are well-maintained. neighbors say it's such a normal place that someone like nikolas cruz really stood out. >> aggressive, crazy weird psycho. >> reporter: brody speno spent nearly a decade a few doors down from cruz. he remembers cruz having a violent side, even at a young age. >> he like cornered a squirrel and throwing rocks at it, trying to kill it. it was just weird. >> reporter: former classmates also paint a twisted picture. they say cruz was obsessed with guns and was disciplined for bringing bullet casings to school. >> about a year ago, i saw him upset in the morning and i was like, what's wrong with you? he's like, i swear to god, i'll shoot up this school. >> reporter: he was ultimately expelled. and there were other signs of trouble. in september, video blogger ben bennight saw a disturbing comment on his youtube page. a commenter with the name nicholkolas cruz posting, "i'm g to be a professional school shooter." >> i found that to be odd and disturbing, so, i forwarded that screenshot to the fbi and -- >> the fbi tonight saying they
tried, but could not track down who that user was. >> and tom llamas joins us tonight from outside the jail where cruz is being held. and we heard about his difficult childhood. you reported there neighbors and classmates talking about his fascination with guns. disciplined in school. ultimately expelled. people watching around the country tonight are going to say there were a lot of warning signs here. >> reporter: so many red flags, david. and tonight, his mental state is of major concern. his legal team tells us he's on suicide watch here at the jail. and his lawyers also telling us that he has struggled with mental illness throughout his life and had significant trauma when his mother recently passed away. david? >> tom llamas live in ft. lauderdale, not far where here in parkland tonight. we turn next here to the survivors. it was just a short time ago, i sat down with a group of brave students here, describing seeing the gunman in the hallway. some of them trying to find a classroom to hide in, but some of the doors along the hallway had been locked.
classes were inside, they were already hiding. and when they did get inside one of those classrooms, hiding in a closet, texting their parents. the first sign that you all knew something was going wrong? >> it was the second fire drill of the day. >> yeah. >> and we don't have two. >> we had one earlier in the day. >> reporter: so, you went outside the building because of the alarm. >> yeah. >> reporter: which was the second of the day. >> yeah. >> reporter: and then you run back into the building. >> yeah, we heard gunshots. we took in some kids that weren't in our class and we hid in a corner. lights were off, like, we practiced. >> reporter: as you were huddled in the corner of that room, what were you all doing? >> staying silent. texting our parents. yeah. >> reporter: what were you texting them? >> saying that we're on lockdown and, like, i love them. >> reporter: i can only imagine what the texts back were. did you yor parents text you ba?
>> uh-huh. >> reporter: what did they say? >> stay safe. >> reporter: and that's when you knew the whole thing was real. >> reporter: jonathan blank was in a classroom on the first floor. the gunman began to fire into the room. you can see his shoes there in this video captured during the chaos. >> when the second round went off, it just -- it was chaos. i went under a desk. we stayed there, i was laying down. four kids in my class, they got shot. two of them, i believe, passed away. i saw them on the ground after they were shot, there was blood everywhere. and it was just horrible. >> reporter: and that video that we now have all seen, you're actually -- you can see your shoes, right? >> yes. i was laying down, trying to just get as far away from the door, like, hide, as possible, and just take cover. we didn't know what was going on. kids were bleeding out everywhere and we didn't know what to do with them and
finally, the cops, we hear them screaming, we had to put our hands up. they came in with assault rifles, pointing them to make sure that no one, the shooter wasn't in our class. and they directed us to line up and they said, just make a right out of this class and run as fast as you can to the street and get away. and as i was making the right turn out of the class, i saw two kids laying in the middle of the hallway dead. they were just dead. >> reporter: two more kids. >> yes. two kids that just weren't in my class. >> reporter: mackenzie hill had gone to a restroom on the second floor, leaving behind her twin sister in the classroom. mckenzie would see the gunman down the hall. she had no choice but to run into another room. she sent a text to her twin. >> so, when we get in the classroom, we were just sitting down, i had contact with my sister, and then --
>> reporter: she would only learn later that her twin had survived. >> she told me she loved me. >> reporter: how long was it before you heard from her? >> like around ten minutes. and then i get out of the school and i saw my sister. >> reporter: what was that like? >> it was the best feeling. if she would have died -- i don't know what i would have done. we got separated, i was supposed to be in her class. >> reporter: jaden blair told us about hiding in a closet. >> i just said, mom, i love you so much, i think i'm going to die. >> reporter: how many of you know someone who did not get out alive? really? so, all of you knew someone.
>> reporter: she then shows me a picture of her friend, joaquin. and then, the other students begin pulling out their phones, the pictures of the friends they lost. jonathan shows me nick. >> this is my classmate nick. he was actually on the national team for swimming. he committed to the university of indianapolis a couple, like, two weeks before this happened. great classmate, great person, always so nice. >> reporter: how terrifying was the whole thing? >> it was the scariest moment of my life. i've never experienced anything like that. >> reporter: i'm sure you think now about all the other shootings, too, in this country. >> yeah, you never think it will happen to you, and, like, to your school until it really does, and it just doesn't feel real. >> and our entire team will not forget that moment inside that house when we asked how many of you know someone who was lost, they all raised their hand. and then began pulling out their
phones with pictures of the friends they won't see again. for the fourth time since his inauguration, president trump addressing the nation about a mass shooting. something his predecessor had to do often, as well. today, president trump sending his condolences to the families and promising to focus on mental health, but he did not answer questions about guns. here's abc's senior white house correspondent cecilia vega. >> reporter: president trump today speaking directly to those grieving families in parkland, florida. >> you are suffering is our burden, also. >> reporter: calling the shooter mentally disturbed, his message was clear. >> we are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health. >> reporter: but shortly after taking office, president trump blocked an obama-era rule that made it tougher for the mentally ill to obtain guns. today, no mention of gun control. >> will you do something about guns? >> reporter: immediately after
past shootings, the president has said it was too soon to discuss gun control. but today, in that grief-stricken community, many saying now is the time. lori alhadeff's 14-year-old daughter alyssa is among the dead. >> president trump, you say, what can you do? you can stop the guns from getting into these children's hands. >> reporter: the broward county schools superintendent agrees. >> our students are asking for that conversation. >> reporter: one of those students, sarah chadwick, tweeted directly at the president. "i don't want your condolences. prayers won't fix this, but gun control whether prevent it from happening again." and despite the gut-wrenching calls for action, gun control seems to be a nonstarter for republicans here in washington. marco rubio said, we can pass laws, there are plenty of ideas, but these laws wouldn't solve the problem. here at the white house, they are planning for a presidential visit to parkland, perhaps as soon as this weekend. >> cecilia vega live at the
white house. cecilia, thank you. and of course, behind that political debate, the families of the 17 people killed here, the 15 injured. some of them fighting for their lives at this hour. and as this political battle now begins in washington, we thought it was important tonight to show you the faces of those lost here. the names of those lost beginning to emerge tonight. five students in their first year of high school. luke hoyer, cara loughran and alyssa alhadeff, a soccer player. gina montalto's mother calling her a, "smart, loving, caring and strong girl who brightened any room she entered. she will be missed by our family for all eternity." also lost martin duque. his older brother saying, "words cannot describe my pain. you'll be missed, buddy." jamie guttenberg's father writing on facebook, "we lost our daughter and my son lost his sister. i am broken. hugs to all and hold your children tight." joaquin oliver just became a u.s. citizen a year ago.
alex schachter, a member of the marching band. seniors meadow pollack, nick dworet making plans for college. and tonight, remembering the teachers, the staff who put their students first. >> those heroes gave their lives for our kids. and probably helped prevent this from being a worse tragedy than it is today. >> reporter: scott beigel who taught geography. shot in the doorway as he rushed his students into the classroom. beloved athletic director chris hixon, rushing to the scene to help others to safety. and then, there's assistant football coach aaron feis. >> i heard the shots and then i saw the shooter run after mr. feis. and i saw mr. feis get shot. >> reporter: the coach using his body to shield students from the shooter. >> he was killed, tragically, inhumanely. he did it protecting others. that's who aaron feis was. >> so many of the kids here telling me about that hero coach today. there is still much more ahead on this special edition of "world news tonight," tracking the weapon, the assault rifle legally purchased. why did the suspect's background
not raise any red flags? and also, the other news tonight. the 4-year-old girl kidnapped from home, found 400 miles away. the news coming in tonight. also the headline involving steve bannon. we'll tell you what we've learned. and back here in parkland, florida, the vigil for the victims. and a message from this community for everyone watching tonight. tonight. even when nothing else is. keep her receipts tidy, brand vo: snap and sort your expenses with quickbooks and find, on average, $4,340 in tax savings.
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the suspect crossed fields and ran west along with others who were fleeing. he tried to mix in with the group that were running away. >> new details coming in today about that horrific shooting at a florida school that killed 17 people. >> new details are emerging today about what the suspected shooter did in the moments before and after the massacre in parkland, florida. investigators say 19-year-old nikolaus cruz arrived at the high school at an uber. and after the shooting, cruz went to a subway, a walmart and a mcdonald's. >> records show the ar-15 used in the attack was purchased last year legally. >> reporter: the former student suspected of gunning down 17 people and injuring 15 others stepped into court for the first time this afternoon.
>> are you nikolaus jacob cruz? >> yes, ma'am. >> reporter: 19-year-old nikolaus cruz is facing 17 counts of premeditated >> mr. cruz, you're going to be held without bond until further order of the court. >> reporter: the gunman opened fire at the high school in parkland, florida. terrified students, hiding in classrooms, behind desks. >> i feel like i'm in a dream, like i don't believe this is real. there's no way to describe what happened. >> reporter: white ma . >> why male, burgundy shirt, he's wearing white pants or shorts. he mixed in with a group of students that were westbound. >> training kicked in, i pulled my vehicle over