Under the rallying cry of #NeverAgain, dozens of students and staff who survived the Florida school shooting are departing for the state Capitol, where they hope to speak with lawmakers about school safety and gun control Wednesday.
“If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” Chris Grady, 19, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High senior, said before boarding a bus Tuesday for Tallahassee. “And you’re against saving the lives of innocent children and we are going to be voting you out.”
Instead of waiting for adults and politicians to respond to the mass shooting that killed 17 classmates and teachers last week, young survivors are organizing in a wave of impassioned advocacy for gun reform. They’ve garnered support from other teenagers, their families and teachers.
“They can change the world, and we can only go with them,” Darren Levine, a teacher at the Parkland school, said of students at an anti-violence rally Monday.
Andrew Pollack lost his 18-year-old daughter, Meadow, in last week’s shooting near Fort Lauderdale.
“I’m not gonna let my daughter’s death go in vain,” he told CNN affiliate WSVN. “I promised all these kids that I’ve been talking to that they’re gonna go to school and they’re gonna be safe, and we’re gonna have a movement.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott will hold meetings Tuesday with law enforcement, school administrators, teachers and mental health experts about ways to keep students safe and prevent guns from getting into the hands of people struggling with mental illness. The workshops will be livestreamed.
“A tragedy like what occurred in Broward County must never happen again and swift action is needed now,” Scott said in a statement. “I am bringing local and state leaders together to find solutions on how to prevent violence in our schools and keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill individuals. This is an urgent matter that we must address quickly.”
Reopening the school: The high school will reopen in phases, first to staff members on Friday and then for a voluntary campus orientation open to students and parents Sunday. The “goal is for classes to resume at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High on a modified schedule” on February 27, according to a Broward County Public Schools statement.
Shooter’s weapons: The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, had obtained at least 10 firearms, all of them rifles, a law enforcement source briefed on the investigation told CNN. Investigators are trying to track the purchases, which Cruz appears to have made in the past year or so, the source said.
Cruz bought two weapons from Gun World of South Florida in Deerfield Beach, said Kim Waltuch, the store’s CEO. She would not provide details on the types of guns he purchased or on the time frame but said the sales team followed normal protocol for Florida firearms purchases.
Remembering the victims: Funerals and viewings are scheduled for several victims Tuesday. The US Army said it awarded three victims in the school’s junior ROTC program — Alaina Petty, Peter Wang and Martin Duque — with Medals for Heroism for their “acceptance of danger and extraordinary responsibilities.”
A run is planned Tuesday in memory of teacher and cross-country coach Scott Beigel, who was killed as he tried to usher students back into his classroom when the shooting broke out.
Report: Cruz came to state agency’s attention
More details have emerged about Cruz’s history before the shooting. CNN obtained a 2016 report from the Florida Department of Children and Families that said Cruz engaged in self-destructive behavior and began cutting his arms after a breakup with a girlfriend.
He also announced plans to buy a gun, put racial slurs and hate symbols on his backpack and suffered from depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism, the report said.
DCF spoke with the teen’s now-deceased mother, Lynda Cruz, who told them her son began cutting his arms after the breakup and making posts to Snapchat. Previously, Cruz had put a Nazi symbol on his backpack and “had hate signs on a book bag, stating, ‘I hate n*****s,'” according to the report.
Despite Cruz’s behavior, the report concluded the “final level of risk is low,” because the teenager was residing with his mother, receiving in-home mental health services and attending school. His mother died in November after battling the flu and pneumonia.
In a statement Monday, DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said the agency “is absolutely heartbroken and disgusted by last week’s tragedy.”
Once the department learned the shooter had a history with the agency, Carroll said officials began the process of asking a court to release records of its involvement with Cruz and conducted a review.
“In these investigations, DCF relies on the expertise of mental health professionals and law enforcement and these records show that DCF took the steps to involve these partners in investigating this alleged abuse. Cruz was receiving mental health services before, during, and after our investigation was closed, he was living with his mother, and attending school,” Carroll’s statement said.
Cruz is being held without bond in Broward County. He appeared in court Monday for a hearing in the sealing of certain documents in the case but didn’t speak publicly and looked down most of the time.
Facing charges of premeditated murder, he is willing to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty, according to the public defender’s office representing him.