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Football Coach Fatally Shielded Students During School Shooting

Suspect Nikolas Cruz bought gun legally
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 15, 2018 2:54 AM CST
Updated Feb 15, 2018 6:51 AM CST
Witnesses: Coach Stepped in Front of Students During School Shoooting
Law enforcement personnel arrest a suspect following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday.   (WPLG-TV via AP)

(Newser) – A heroic football coach fatally jumped in front of students to protect them during Wednesday's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, witnesses say. "Can everyone please take a second to pray for my coach today he took serval [sic] bullets covering other students at Douglas," tweeted junior lineman Charlie Rothkopf. Assistant coach Aaron Feis, who also worked as a security guard at the Parkland, Fla., high school, was among the 17 killed in the shooting, the Sun-Sentinel reports. Early reports said he was in critical condition, but Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Wednesday night that "a beloved football coach is dead." The football team tweeted early Thursday: "He selflessly shielded students from the shooter when he was shot. He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories." More on the deadliest high school shooting in US history:

  • Desperate searches. Other than Feis, police haven't disclosed the identities of the 17 dead and 16 wounded, and desperate parents seeking information on their children have turned to social media, where photos of their missing loved ones have been shared thousands of times, reports Local10. Some students shared updates on Instagram and Snapchat while sheltering from the shooter.

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  • Suspect slipped away. Law enforcement sources tell ABC News that suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz, 19, slipped away from the scene by blending in with fleeing students. He was taken into custody around an hour later after police identified him from surveillance footage. Cruz was expelled from the school last year, and a teacher says he was flagged as a threat. Video of the arrest can be seen here.
  • Gun was legally bought. Authorities say Cruz used an AR-15 rifle with "countless magazines." Law enforcement sources tell CNN that the teenager legally bought the gun some time in the past year and passed a background check.
  • "Troubled and depressed." Family members and neighbors tell the Sun Sentinel that Cruz had seemed "troubled and depressed" in recent months. Relatives say that mother Lynda Cruz, who adopted Cruz the day he was born, died of pneumonia Nov. 1, and Cruz had been staying with a friend's family since around Thanksgiving. His brother was with another family friend. Cruz's adoptive father died when the boys were young. A lawyer for the family he'd been staying with says they made him keep the AR-15 locked up in a cabinet, which he had the keys to.

  • "We didn't know if it was real." Authorities believe Cruz pulled a fire alarm to get students out of classrooms. Student Ryan Gutierrez tells the Washington Post that there'd already been one fire drill that day, and students were told in a recent assembly on emergency procedures that there might be an active-shooter drill with police firing blank shots. After the "code red" alarm, "when we were hiding in the room, people were saying they heard gunshots, and we didn't know if it was real," he says.
  • Teacher slams government. Language teacher Melissa Falkowski says after they stepped out of the classroom for a fire alarm and were put on "code red" moments later, she hid all 19 students in a closet and climbed in after them, reports the New York Daily News. She later called the government's failure to prevent mass shootings "unacceptable," saying the "government has failed us and failed our kids."
  • "A day you pray ... you will never have to see." Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said the district is in a "tremendous state of grief and sorrow." "It's a day that you pray, every day when you get up, that you will never have to see," he said, per the Miami Herald. "It is in front of us. I ask the community for prayers and their support for the children and their families."

  • School security. Runcie says on a daily basis, there were usually at least two police cars on the sprawling campus of around 3,200 students, NBC News reports. School board member Donna Korn tells USA Today that the sheriff's office provided active-shooter training. She says all schools in the district have a law enforcement officer assigned to them, and they all control entry through a single entry point.
  • Disturbing social media posts. Investigators say they've uncovered disturbing social media posts from Cruz, whose classmates say he was obsessed with weapons. In Instagram posts, he poses with guns and knives and asks for advice on buying more weapons, the Telegraph reports. One post shows a dead frog he said he killed.
  • "Pure evil." Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who spoke at the school and a local hospital Wednesday evening, described the shooting as "absolutely pure evil," the Palm Beach Post reports. "It's tragic. It makes you mad," he said. He was accompanied by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who said the state will pay for the funeral services of all those killed.
(Read more Parkland school shooting stories.)

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