A former student opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at a Florida high schoolWednesday, killing at least 17 people and sending hundreds of students fleeing into the streets in the nation’s deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
The shooter, who was equipped with a gas mask and smoke grenades, set off a fire alarm to draw students out of classrooms shortly before the day ended at one of the state’s largest schools, officials said.
Authorities offered no immediate details on the 19-year-old suspect or any possible motive, except to say that he had been kicked out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which has about 3,000 students.
Students who knew the shooter, identified as Nikolas Cruz, described a volatile teenager whose strange behavior had caused others to end friendships with him, particularly after the fight that led to his expulsion.
Sources confirm that a few hundred Jewish teenagers attend this school. At least one Jewish student is missing. Please say Tehillim for Rochel bas Leah. As of this posting, her parents have still not located her.
“It was a wrenching scene,” Rabbi Mendy Gutnick, youth director at Chabad of Parkland, told Chabad.org. “Parents were gathered outside while their children were still inside of the school, and they had no way to save them.”
“Together with Rabbi Shuey Biston, I rushed to the school to give support to anyone we could. The school is at least 40% Jewish, so we know many of the students and their parents,” he continued. “We went from parent to parent and tried to offer as much comfort as possible, and helped them recite Psalms, praying for the students and faculty in the school. ”
The rabbi said he is coordinating with his fellow Chabad rabbis from nearby Coral Springs, home of many of the students, to hold an evening of prayer, consolation and memorial later this week.