PARKLAND, Fla. (FOX 13) - Panic and fear swept through a South Florida community Wednesday afternoon after a gunman opened fire at a suburban high school.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel says 17 people were killed and more were injured during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The sheriff said 12 of the 17 died inside the school building, two of them died outside of the building, one was killed on the street near the school and another two died in the hospital.
The shooter, who was equipped with a gas mask and smoke grenades, set off a fire alarm to draw students out of their classrooms shortly before the school day ended, officials said.
Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said "It is a horrific situation," and "It is a horrible day for us."
Students and teachers filed out of the school after the shooting, many with arms in the air as armed SWAT officers ushered them along. Video from the scene showed at least five people being treated by paramedics along a sidewalk while students streamed by.
Footage posted to social media showed officers in the school ushering students who had huddled inside an auditorium; another clip showed students cowering as gunfire exploded nearby.
A student sent his sister video from a classroom where SWAT officers entered with guns drawn and ordered everyone to raise their hands.
Police warned all area hospitals early on to expect patients as a result of the shooting.
Sen. Bill Nelson told FOX News that there were "many deaths" at the school.
"Our worst fears are being realized," he offered via Twitter."Praying for all those students, families and school members."
A search for the gunman ended with an arrest a mile away from the school. Video from SkyFOX showed officers handcuffing a male in a maroon shirt and loading him into the back of a cruiser.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel identified him only as a former student at the high school, believed to be around 19 years old. The Associated Press later identified him as Nikolas Cruz.
The sheriff later said Cruz had no clear motive but added the suspected shooter had been expelled for disciplinary problems.
Sheriff Israel said an AR-15 rifle with multiple magazines was used in the shooting.
Hours after the shooting, officers were still working to clear what the sheriff said was a "fluid" scene. Students and staff were still hiding inside, the sheriff said, and deputies wanted to be sure there were no other shooters.
Parents at the school described a chaotic and frightening situation as they rushed to find their children in the frantic minutes after reports of the began to spread.
Caesar Figueroa says he saw police officers bringing out big weapons as they approached the school where his 16-year-old daughter is a student.
"My wife called me that there was an active shooter and the school was on lockdown. I got on the road and saw helicopters, police with machine guns," he told the Associated Press. "It was crazy and my daughter wasn't answering her phone."
According to Figueroa, she texted him that she was hidden inside a closet at school with friends: "She was in a classroom and she heard gunshots by the window. She and her friends ran into the closet."
Another parent, Beth Feingold, says her daughter sent a text at 2:32 p.m. saying "We're on code red. I'm fine." But she then sent another text soon afterward saying, "Mom, I'm so scared." The girl was later able to escape the school unharmed.
Parkland is a Fort Lauderdale suburb of 30,000 people just east of the Everglades, with zoning laws to protect the community's "park-like" character. The National Council on Home Safety and Security recently placed the city on its list of the 10 safest cities in Florida.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he'd been in touch with the White House about the tragedy, while President Donald Trump tweeted his condolences to the victims.
"My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school," he wrote.
The FBI has established a tip line for anyone who has information about the shooting. The number is 1-800-Call-FBI.