The survivors of the Florida school shooting are turning their grief into action with a message to lawmakers: Address gun reform now.
Nikolas Cruz opened fire at his former school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, killing 17 people in the deadliest US school shooting since 2012.
The shooting Wednesday reignited demands for tougher gun laws, with students gathering in Fort Lauderdale, about 25 miles from the site of the shooting in Parkland, to get their message out.
Emma Gonzalez, who survived the shooting, addressed hundreds, calling for a plan to prevent mass shootings.
“Maybe the adults have got used to saying, ‘It is what it is,'” Gonzalez said in a fiery speech. “But if us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail. And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead.”
“We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because, just as David said, we are going to be the last mass shooting,” she added.
• Trump slams FBI: In a tweet, President Donald Trump criticized the FBI for missing “all of the many signals sent out” by the shooter.
• Travel help: JetBlue Airways is offering free flights to family members of the shooting victims traveling to Parkland. The airline will also provide free ground transportation via the ride-hailing platform Lyft.
• The injured are recovering: Three shooting victims remain in hospitals in fair condition, hospital officials said in a statement.
• Will the shooter face death? The defense team says Cruz will plead guilty if prosecutors don’t seek the death penalty, but the state attorney won’t rule that out.
Details of what may have been warning signs missed by authorities, school officials and those who were in contact with Cruz continue emerging in the aftermath of the shooting.
The FBI failed to act on a January 5 tip of information about “Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting,” the agency said.
The proper protocols weren’t followed and the FBI’s Miami office was not notified, the agency said.
A video blogger said he warned the FBI in September about a possible school shooting threat from a YouTube user with the same name as Cruz. The FBI did not find information to identify the person who posted the comment and no connection was made to South Florida, said Robert Lasky, FBI special agent in charge of the Miami division.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a review Friday into how the Cruz tip was missed and how authorities respond to similar situations.
Cruz’s school disciplinary record shows he was reprimanded many times since middle school for incidents that included bad language and disrupting class. He was also punished once for fighting and once for assault.
Laurel Holland, a retired teacher who had the shooter in her junior year English class in 2016, told CNN that Cruz cursed her out during midterm exams and was suspended for two days.
There was a time when Cruz was caught at school with a gun-related object in his backpack but Holland said teachers don’t know what to do when kids exhibit “nebulous” behavior.
Kids who act out are referred to administrators, she said. Kids who cut class get detention. If she saw someone with suspicious bruises, she’d know to call social workers, who would later get police involved. But with Cruz, there was no clear path.
“He fell through the cracks because we don’t know what to do,” she said.
The gunman’s future
Cruz, who is facing charges of premeditated murder, is willing to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty, according to the top public defender.
Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office is representing the confessed gunman, said there’s no question he killed 17 students and staff members in in Wednesday’s shooting at the high school in Parkland.
“The only question is, does he live or does he die?” Finkelstein asked.
State Attorney Michael J. Satz said on Saturday that this “certainly is the type of case the death penalty was designed for,” but that now is the time “to let the families grieve and bury their children and loved ones.”
The 19-year-old is being held without bond in Broward County.
Social media posts
Cruz’s apparent digital footprint includes slurs against blacks and Muslims, and declarations of a desire to shoot people. Other social media posts show a photo of a rifle, a collection of firearms on a bed, and a photo taken through a scope looking out a window.
In a private Instagram group chat, Cruz talked about killing Mexicans, keeping black people in chains and cutting their necks. After one member expressed hatred for gay people, Cruz agreed, saying, “Shoot them in the back of head.”