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Florida Community Reels After 17 People Are Killed In School Shooting

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It happened again - this time, in Florida. A former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School opened fire inside the school, leaving 17 people dead. Daniel Williams is a student at that school.

DANIEL WILLIAMS: In a group chat, I heard people saying, like, a guy and a girl that were in the period I was at before this happened - I heard they got shot. I'm like, holy crap. I was talking to them. Now they're in the hospital, maybe dead.

MARTIN: The community there in Parkland, Fla., this morning trying to come to grips with what has happened there. We are joined now by Caitie Switalski. She's a reporter with our member station WLRN.

Caitie, we just said 17 people dead in this massacre, many more injured. What can you tell us about their condition?

CAITIE SWITALSKI, BYLINE: So the 17 people were a mix of adults and students. About 12 were found inside of the building, a couple found outside, and two passed away in the hospital.

MARTIN: And the people who were injured - do we know anything about the victims who survived who are currently being treated?

SWITALSKI: We don't yet, but hopefully, we will soon. And there's no word yet if those injuries are gunshot wounds or if they're things like injuries from fleeing the scene.

MARTIN: Right. What can you tell us about the gunman?

SWITALSKI: He's 19-years-old Nikolas Cruz. He is a former student that a lot of students described as a loner. It - you know, he has suffered the loss of his adopted mother in November. She died of pneumonia. And we don't know much else. His adopted father died years ago when he was younger. But he is a former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

MARTIN: He had been expelled from school. Do we know that to be true?

SWITALSKI: For disciplinary actions, yes.

MARTIN: Obviously, this is a trauma beyond words. We hear now that the high school will be closed for the rest of the week. Have you been talking with school officials just about the next steps in all this?

SWITALSKI: So school officials are trying not to release too much information right now. The next steps are actually for grief counseling. That's going to start as early as 8 a.m. this morning. At a park nearby the school, there will be grief counselors from all over the neighboring schools in the county that are coming to talk with students who survived and parents, as well. The next steps are also for - you know, the entire county closed sports activities between schools for right now.

MARTIN: You were there on the scene yesterday at the high school. What did you hear from parents, from students?

SWITALSKI: There was a lot of panic, a lot of motion and a lot of chaos. You know, in between the police cars, you just had hundreds of parents running to find their kids, lots of tears. But the parents and children that were reunited were obviously relieved and left as soon as they could. Students told me, in the chaos, it was just like a fire drill gone bad.

MARTIN: Caitie Switalski with our member station WLRN. Thanks so much.

SWITALSKI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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