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Gatherings Of Grief In Parkland As The Criminal Case Begins Against Alleged Shooter Of Douglas High

Pine Trail Park in Parkland was the site of vigils in honor of those killed in Wednesday's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Isabella Cueto
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

As students, staff and parents from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland gathered to grieve and comfort one another Thursday, the former student accused of killing 17 people was charged with murder and had his first appearance in court.

No bail was allowed for Nikolas Cruz, 19.

A Broward County Sheriff's Office report says Cruz confessed to being the shooter at the school.

Click on the image to enlarge
Click on the image to enlarge

According to the report, Cruz told interrogating officers that he "began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on school grounds" Wednesday. 

Cruz told officers he decided to discard his AR-15 rifle as students began to flee.

The police report says Cruz bought the rifle in February 2017 but does not say where it was purchased.

Even though Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of murder and is being held without bond, police continued to pursue the case. Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said that investigators from the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, the FDLE and local law enforcement had interviewed more than 2,00 people.

“This is a fluid investigation,” he said.

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Credit Isabella Cueto / WLRN
The Florida Channel

Across Broward County and South Florida, people struggled to find answers for why this happened, and how to cope with the traumatic aftermath. President Donald Trump offered words of support for South Florida and said he would be visiting Parkland.

The names of the victims were released and two vigils were held at Pine Trails Park in Parkland.

Read more: These are the lives lost in the Parkland High School Shooting

At the evening vigil, Fred Guttenberg – father of 14 -year-old Jaime Guttenberg, who was killed in the shooting — said he recently lost his brother and thought that was as bad as it could get. But losing his daughter “is impossible.”

He said he can’t remember if he told her he loved her when she left for school on Wednesday.

“She knows!” someone in the crowd called out. “You told her enough!”

Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, a Stoneman Douglas graduate, said at the evening vigil that shootings happen, people are horrified and then they move on and forget.

"We don't know who is hiding their sadness or their feelings of guilt and loneliness, who needs help but is too proud to ask," Rizzo said.

Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said at a press conference Thursday afternoon that “hundreds of people” had gone through the four crisis services centers the school district had set up, and those would be open again on Friday.

Read more: Parkland community starts coping with the day after

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will be closed through the weekend.

“We’re going to be spending the next couple days figuring out what the path is to re-open the school and what type of logistical challenges we’re going to have relative to what’s occurred in Building 12 on this site,” he said.

Read more: Broward County School Board members: 'We need help' with mental health services

At Broward Health Medical Center, one of the seven gunshot victims taken to the hospital on Wednesday was discharged. The two who had been listed in critical condition and had surgery were upgraded to fair condition.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit .

Jessica Bakeman reports on K-12 and higher education for WLRN, south Florida's NPR affiliate. While new to Miami and public radio, Jessica is a seasoned journalist who has covered education policymaking and politics in three state capitals: Jackson, Miss.; Albany, N.Y.; and, most recently, Tallahassee.
Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.