Florida investigated after school shooting suspect cut himself

Florida’s child welfare agency investigated the suspect in a school shooting that killed 17 people after he cut himself in an online video but found him stable, according to state records.The Sun-Sentinel reported that Florida’s Department …

Follow this story

Prosecutors push back on talk of plea deal for Parkland gunman

Prosecutors said Saturday that it was to early in the process to discuss a plea agreement for Nicholas Cruz who confessed to killing 17 people in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 

However, Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz said,”This is the type of case the death penalty was designed for.” 

“This was a highly calculated and premeditated murder of 17 people and the attempted murder of everyone in that school,” Staz said. “Our office will announce our formal position at the appropriate time.”

Broward County public defender Howard Finkelstein said Friday that his client would plead guilty immediately in exchange for a state promise to not seek the death penalty.

Cruz confessed to “shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on the school grounds,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

“The only question is, does he live or does he die?” Finkelstein said.

Before the shooting, Cruz had a history of mental and behavioral issues, which could become part of an insanity defense.

The former Stoneman Douglas student told investigators that he heard voices in his head, giving him instructions on how to conduct the attack, law enforcement sources told ABC News.

Cruz’s next court date is set for Monday morning.

Former State and Federal Prosecutor David Weinstein called Finkelstein’s offer an “interesting tactic,” but said state law allows the victims’ relatives to have input on the sentencing.

“It seems too early to me for the state to agree to a life sentence,” Weinstein said.

Follow this story

Stoneman Douglas survivors get vocal on gun control

As the national news media descended on Parkland, students shared their horrific stories of survival after Wednesday’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and increasingly they are turning to another message: Something needs to change.

Many survivors of mass shootings have gone on to become staunch gun control advocates months and years later in Parkland, the timeline has seemingly accelerated. In the days after the shooting, students have been active on social media and cable news channels, saying now is the time to talk about changing gun laws.

Senior David Hogg has appeared on cable news multiple times since the shooting, urging lawmakers to act and calling the shooting “unacceptable.”

He and hundreds of others rallied at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale Saturday, calling for more legislation to regulate guns.

“Vote them out!” and protesters chanted repeatedly, referring to lawmakers who oppose restrictions on guns.

“People keep asking me, What about this (shooting) will be different?” junior Cameron Kasky said at the rally. “All of you are proof that this could be different.”

On Saturday morning in Parkland, protesters lined the road to the school, which is still an active crime scene, with signs reading anti-gun messages like “broken system.”

“After every shooting, the NRA sends a memo saying ‘send your thoughts and prayers.’ This is the only country where this kind of thing happens,” Kasky told CNN. “This is the time to talk about guns.”

“But there’s much more that can be done, much more that needs to be done and much more that people like Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott are not doing,” he said. “It’s scary to think these are the people who are making our laws when our community just took 17 bullets to the heart. It feels like the only people who don’t care are the people making the laws.”

At a vigil for the victims, a crowd of more than 1,000 people, consisting largely of students, chanted “No more guns, no more guns.”

Students elsewhere have started joining the chorus from Parkland. On Friday, about 100 students from South Broward High School walked out of school to protest gun violence, carrying signs that said “Do Something” and “Protect our Kids, Not Your Guns.”

“We are angry! We are angry!” the students cried. “We want safety! We want safety!”

On Wednesday night, conservative commentator Tomi Lahren took to Twitter, saying it was too early to talk about gun control. 

“Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda? My goodness. This isn’t about a gun it’s about another lunatic,” she wrote.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Student Caryl Novell quickly responded.

“I was hiding in a closet for two hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings,” Novell said. “This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.”

Her message to Lahren has been retweeted more than 300,000 times.

“We are children. You guys are, like, the adults. Take action, work together, come over your politics, and get something done,” Hogg said.

Follow this story

Shooting victim was preparing to go to Lynn University

Meadow Pollack, who was a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior getting ready to go to Lynn University in Boca Raton, died in a school shooting Wednesday. She was 18.

“She was a beautiful, warm, loving and intelligent soul whose sense of humor and loyalty to friends made her beloved by all who knew her,” Marc Grossman wrote in a GoFundMe page to help her mother. 

After learning the news of Pollack’s death, Lynn University released a statement announcing they would be offering counseling services to students who knew Pollack. 

“Our thoughts go out to the victims, their family members, and all the students, teachers and staff,” the statement said.  

Pollack is survived by her mother, Shara Kaplan, her father Andrew Pollack, and her two older brothers, Huck and Hunter. 

Her funeral service was Friday at Temple K’ol Tikvah and she was buried at the Garden of Aaron at Star of David Memorial Gardens in North Lauderdale.

Follow this story

FBI pressure increases with failure to avert school shooting

The revelation that the FBI botched a potentially life-saving tip on the Florida school shooting suspect is a devastating blow to America’s top law enforcement agency at a time when it is already under extraordinary political pressure.

Even before the startling disclosure that the FBI failed to investigate a warning that the suspect, Nikolas Cruz, could be plotting an attack, the bureau was facing unprecedented criticism from President Donald Trump and other Republicans, who have accused it of partisan bias.

The agency and its supporters had been able to dismiss past criticism as just politics, but this time it had no option but to admit it made a disastrous mistake. Revelations that the Florida Department of Children and Families investigated Cruz for a post on Snapchat showing self-mutilation should have also raised red flags. 

The FBI’s acknowledgment that it mishandled the tip prompted a sharp rebuke from its boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and a call from Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a Trump ally, for FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign.

Wray, on the job for just six months, had already been in a precarious position defending the bureau from relentless attacks by Trump and other Republicans. They are still dissatisfied with its decision not to charge Hillary Clinton with crimes related to her use of a private email server, and they see signs of bias in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of possible Trump campaign ties to Russia.

As evidence, they’ve cited the former deputy director’s connection to Clinton allies, and they’ve publicized anti-Trump text messages exchanged between an FBI agent and a bureau lawyer. Democrats have said the accusations are aimed at damaging Mueller’s investigation and protecting Trump.

Through it all, Wray has repeatedly stood up to Trump, defending the bureau’s independence and publicly praising its agents in implicit rebuttals to the president’s criticism. Wray unsuccessfully fought to block the release of a classified Republican memo accusing the FBI of abusing its surveillance powers in the Russia probe – a document Trump wanted aired. Wray also publicly contradicted White House accounts of how it handled recent domestic abuse allegations involving an aide.

The shooting provides fresh grounds to criticize the FBI. First it was revealed that the FBI failed to delve into a YouTube comment posted by a “Nikolas Cruz” that said, “Im going to be a professional school shooter.” The FBI said it could not determine who made it.

On Friday, the bureau said it had failed to act on a tip that Cruz had a “desire to kill people,” disturbing social media posts and access to a gun. Cruz is charged with killing 17 people in the school he once attended.

Sessions, a Trump loyalist who has at times seemed to welcome criticism of the FBI, called the massacre a “tragic consequence” of the FBI’s failure. He ordered a review of the Justice Department procedures.

The House Judiciary and Oversight committees, whose Republican leaders have been some of the strongest FBI critics, demanded Wray brief them on what went wrong.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said it was “inexcusable” the FBI did not follow protocols and urged Congress to launch its own investigation. Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida promised to be in “close communication with the FBI so we can get to the bottom of this.”

Wray apologized in a rare statement admitting the FBI’s missteps. But Scott, the governor, said that “isn’t going to cut it.”

“People must have confidence in the follow-through from law enforcement,” he said, calling for Wray to step down.

This isn’t the first time the FBI has been seen as missing an opportunity to prevent a major violent attack. The white supremacist who killed nine people at a historically black church in South Carolina in 2015 was able to purchase his weapon only because of breakdowns in the FBI’s background check system. The background check examiner who evaluated the shooter’s request to buy a gun never saw an arrest report in which he admitted to possessing illegal drugs. Under federal rules, that should have been enough to disqualify him from a gun purchase.

Congress in 2009 criticized the FBI for missteps ahead of a shooting that left 13 people dead at Fort Hood, Texas, after finding that agents failed to act on emails between the gunman and terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki.

In the Florida school shooting, “somebody made a mistake, somebody did not do their job,” said Jeffrey Ringel, a former FBI agent and Joint Terrorism Task force member who now works for the Soufan Group, a private security firm.

“The FBI will be criticized for a failing that they have basically owned up to,” he said. “It’s a learning lesson. Unfortunately, a very expensive learning lesson.”

Follow this story

Shooting victim was talented Parkland Travel Soccer team midfielder

Alyssa Miriam Alhadeff, who was a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and dreamed of becoming a doctor, died in a school shooting Wednesday in Parkland. She was 14.

The slain honors student loved soccer. She wore the number eight jersey for the Parkland Travel Soccer team, and she played on the varsity team. Her friends and family remembered her last soccer game. The attacking midfielder jumped over a defender heading the ball. 

“Alyssa was a talented soccer player, so smart, an amazing personality and incredibly creative writer, and all she had to offer the world was love,” Lori Alhadeff, her mother, said during the funeral service. “She believed in people for being so honest.” 

Alyssa was in the school’s debate team and volunteered regularly at the Chabad of Parkland. She was born in Queens, New York, and she was a regular Union for Reform Judaism summer camper in Georgia. Her friends remember her as caring and persistent. 

Her service was Friday at the Star of David Memorial Gardens Cemetery and Funeral Chapel in North Lauderdale. She was the first of the 17 victims to be buried. 

Follow this story