Students under fire by a 19 year-old gunman at a South Florida high school yesterday were left to “cower and pray” for their lives in what Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski called “another act of senseless violence and horrifying evil” that left 17 people dead.
Tampa Bay News is reporting on the shooting that occurred at around 2:30 on February 14, Ash Wednesday, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This is when a 19 year-old former student, Nikolas Cruz, deliberately pulled the fire alarm that caused students to run out of their classrooms, then opened fire. In the ensuing panic and confusion, 17 people lost their lives and at least a dozen more were transported to area hospitals.
The Broward County Sheriff’s office confirmed that Cruz was armed with an AR-15 automatic weapon and had multiple magazines on his person. He was also wearing a gas mask with the intention of tossing smoke bombs to enable him to shoot people as they ran through the haze.
After leaving the building, he was apprehended about a mile away by police and taken into custody. He has been charged with 17 counts of murder. Twelve of the victims died inside the school, two more died outside on the school grounds and another person died on the corner of Pine Island Road as the gunman fled. Another two victims died at the hospital.
Nicholas Coke, who was in English class when the fire alarm went off, told Tampa Bay News that he saw people jumping fences, running behind the middle school and staying in classrooms to cower and pray after gunshots went off.
Some students took photos and posted video to social media, most of which is too disturbing to view.
The local community reacted with shock and outrage over the senseless killing of so many innocent lives.
After offering the prayers of the entire Catholic community for the deceased and their families, Archbishop Wenski said, “We all are understandably outraged when innocent children are made victims of senseless violence. But, even as we are still learning about the appalling dimensions of this tragedy, we must come together as a community to support one another in this time of grief. This Ash Wednesday, we begin our Lenten Season that calls us to penance and conversion. With God’s help, we can remain strong and resolute to resist evil in all its manifestations. May God heal the broken hearted and comfort the sorrowing as we once again face as a nation another act of senseless violence and horrifying evil.”
Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is also asking for prayers for the dead and healing for those left behind.
“I encourage us to unite our prayers and sacrifices for the healing and consolation of all those who have been affected by violence in these last weeks and for a conversion of heart, that our communities and nation will be marked by peace. I pray also for unity in seeking to build toward a society with fewer tragedies caused by senseless gun violence. Our hope is in the Lord, as he promised after his resurrection, ‘behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age’ (Mt. 28:20).”
Pope Francis sent a late-night telegram to Archbishop Wenski in which he assured “all those affected by this devastating attack of his spiritual closeness.” “With the hope that such senseless acts of violence may cease,” he invoked “divine blessings of peace and strength” on the South Florida community.
Thus far, there is no known motive but the shooter, who was expelled from the school for “disciplinary reasons,” was a loner who was known for his fascination with guns and violence.
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