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Tuesday , February 25 2020

AMIR OFFERS CONDOLENCES ON FLORIDA SHOOTING – Former student kills 17 at Florida school

Students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb 14, after a shooter opened fire on the campus. (AP)

KUWAIT CITY/PARKLAND, Fla, Feb 15, (Agencies): His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on Thursday sent a cable of condolences to US President Donald Trump over the victims of a high school shooting in Parkland in Florida, which left a number of casualties. In the cable, His Highness the Amir voiced Kuwait’s condemnation and denunciation of this criminal horrible act that targeted innocent people, wishing the swift recovery of those injured in the incident.

Two cables of similar sentiments were sent to the US president by His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al- Hamad Al-Sabah. A 19-year-old man who had been expelled from his Florida high school was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday, after authorities said he unleashed one of the deadliest school shootings in US history.

The ex-student, identified as Nikolas Cruz walked into the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Wednesday and opened fire on students and teachers, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. Police believe he acted alone. Cruz was expected to appear in court Thursday afternoon for a bond hearing, said Constance Simmons, a spokeswoman for the state attorney’s office. Cruz was armed with an AR- 15-style assault rifle and had multiple ammunition magazines when he surrendered to officers in a nearby residential area, police said. He loved guns and was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons, police and former classmates said.

The shooting in a community about 45 miles (72 km) north of Miami was the 18th in a US school this year, according to gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, continuing a troubling pattern that has played out over the past few years. It was the second deadliest shooting in a US public school after the 2012 massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. The deadliest school shooting in US history was at Virginia Tech in 2007, when 32 people were killed. “This community is hurting right now,” Israel told reporters Thursday. “We will interview every single student and every person in that school who possibly might know something.” The Florida shooting stirred the long-simmering US debate on the right to bear arms, which are protected by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. Schools across the country have installed electronically secured doors and added security staff, but few legislative solutions have emerged. The Broward County sheriff and schools superintendent Robert Runcie urged officials to do more to improve school security. “We’ve got to invest resources to make sure that we minimize the occurrence of this ever happening again, because if we don’t it’s not a matter of if, it’s going to be when,” Runcie told a news conference.

Mental illness
US President Donald Trump on Thursday called for healing and peace one day after a gunman killed at least 17 people at a Florida high school, saying his administration would work to improve school safety and address mental illness. Trump said he was making plans to meet with families in Parkland, Florida. In televised remarks from the White House, Trump, who has an 11-year-old son, said he wanted to address America’s children with the message they are “never alone and you never will be.” “You have people who care about you, who love you, and who will do anything at all to protect you,” he said.

Democrats have said the shooting underscores the need for tougher gun laws, but Trump did not mention the issue in his brief address, delivered from the White House. He said he would make school safety the top priority when he meets with governors and state attorneys general later this month. “We must also work together to create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life, that cremechanism ates deep and meaningful human connections,” Trump said, urging children who feel scared or alone to reach out to trusted adults for help. “We are here for you, whatever you need, whatever we can do to ease your pain,” he said.

Cruz had recently moved in with another family after his mother’s death in November, according to Jim Lewis, a lawyer representing the family and local media, bringing his AR-15 along with his other belongings. The family believed Cruz was depressed, but attributed that to his mother’s death, not mental illness. “They didn’t see any danger,” Lewis told CNN. Cruz may have left warning signs on social media. Buzzfeed reported that a person named Nikolas Cruz left a comment under a YouTube video that read “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” The man who posted the video was alarmed and contacted the FBI, Buzzfeed reported. FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Lasky told reporters on Thursday the bureau received the 2017 tip but said investigators had been unable to locate the person who made the comment. “No other information was included with that comment which would indicate a time location or the true identity of the person who made the comment,” Lasky said.

South Florida remained on edge on Thursday. Miami’s main criminal courthouse building and another Broward school briefly went on lockdown due to security concerns, according to officials and local media. No injuries were immediately reported in either incident. The first victim of the attack was publicly identified on Thursday as Aaron Feis, an assistant coach on the school’s football team and a school security guard who was shot while shielding students, the team said on Twitter.

The assailant wore a gas mask as he stalked into the school carrying a rifle, ammunition cartridges and smoke grenades, then pulled a fire alarm, prompting students and staff to pour from classrooms into hallways, according to Florida’s two US senators, who were brief by federal authorities. An armed law enforcement officer stationed at the school did not encounter Cruz during his rampage, Israel said. Colton Haab, a 17-year-old member of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at the high school, said he realized the alarms were not a drill after hearing several shots fired and helped barricade fellow students behind curtains made of Kevlar, a material used to make bullet-proof vests. “We grabbed two pieces of two-byfour, a fire extinguisher and a chair,” Haab said.

“We were going to try to stop him with whatever we had.” Florida’s two US senators, briefed by federal law enforcement officials, said the assailant wore a gas mask as he stalked into the school carrying a rifle, ammunition cartridges and smoke grenades, then pulled a fire alarm, prompting students and staff to pour from their classrooms into hallways. “There the carnage began,” Senator Bill Nelson told CNN. Senator Marco Rubio gave a similar account on Twitter. A chilling cell phone video clip broadcast by CBS News showed a brief scene of what the network said was the shooting in progress from inside a classroom, where several students were seen huddled or lying on the floor surrounded by mostly empty desks. A rapid series of loud gunshots are heard amid hysterical screaming and someone yelling, “Oh my God.” The gunman was arrested later outside, some distance from the school in an adjacent community. CNN, citing law enforcement sources, said the gunman tried to blend in with students who were fleeing the school but was spotted and taken into custody. As a high school freshman, Cruz was part of the US military-sponsored Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corp program at the school, according to Jillian Davis, 19, a recent graduate and former fellow JROTC member at Stoneman Douglas High.

In an interview with Reuters, Davis recalled his “strange talking sometimes about knives and guns,” adding, “no one ever took him seriously.” Chad Williams, 18, a senior at Stoneman Douglas, described Cruz as “kind of an outcast” who was known for unruly behavior at school, including a penchant for pulling false fire alarms, and was “crazy about guns.”

The gunman surrendered to police without a struggle, Israel said. He was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and had multiple magazines of ammunition. “It’s catastrophic,” Israel said. “There really are no words.” Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie called it “a horrific situation,” Twelve of the dead were killed inside the school, two others just outside, one more on the street and two other victims died from their wounds at a hospital, Israel said. He said the victims comprised a mixture of students and adults. The sheriff said at a briefing after dark that investigators had so far positively identified just 12 of the dead, including a football coach he did not name.

Authorities at two nearby hospitals said they were treating 13 survivors for bullet wounds and other injuries, five of whom were listed in critical condition. The Valentine’s Day bloodshed in the racially diverse Miami suburb of gated communities with palm- and shrub-lined streets was the latest outbreak of gun violence that has become a regular occurrence at schools and college campuses across the United States over the past several years.

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