Florida teen Nikolas Cruz booked on 17 murder counts, ordered held without bond in shooting

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An orphaned 19-year-old with a troubled past and his own AR-15 rifle was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. (Broward County Sheriff)

A 19-year-old man with a troubled past and his own AR-15 rifle was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder the day after a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

According to law enforcement officials, Nikolas Cruz legally purchased the assault weapon before using it in the massacre, the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in five years. He was being held without bail after appearing in court Thursday morning.
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Police provide names of the 17 victims of the Parkland, Florida school shooting

Broward County Sheriff's Office said Cruz told investigators that he shot students in the hallways and on the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Cruz also told officers he brought more loaded magazines to the school and kept them hidden in the backpack until he got on campus.

As students began to flee, he said, Cruz decided to discard his AR-15 rifle and a vest he was wearing so he could blend in with the crowd fleeing from the school. Police later recovered the rifle and the vest.

After the rampage, the suspect headed to a Walmart and bought a drink at a Subway restaurant before walking to a McDonald's. He was taken into custody about 40 minutes after leaving the McDonald's, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said.

MORE: Timeline of how Florida high school shooting unfolded
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Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel gives a timeline of events in the mass shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida.

President Donald Trump discussed the incident in an address to "a nation in grief" from the White House.

"No child, no teacher should ever be in danger in an American school," Trump said. "No parent should ever have to fear for their sons and daughters when they kiss them goodbye in the morning."

In an earlier tweet, Trump referred to the suspect's mental health.

"So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior," the president wrote. "Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!"

The leader of a white nationalist militia said Cruz was a member of his group and participated in paramilitary drills in Tallahassee.

Jordan Jereb told The Associated Press on Thursday that his group wants Florida to become its own white ethno-state. He said his group holds "spontaneous random demonstrations" and tries not to participate in the modern world.

Jereb said he didn't know Cruz personally and that "he acted on his own behalf of what he just did and he's solely responsible for what he just did."

He also said he had "trouble with a girl" and he believed the timing of the attack, carried out on Valentine's Day, wasn't a coincidence.

Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Sheriff Israel provided an update on the investigation at a news conference.

Israel said an armed security officer was on campus at the time of the shooting but never encountered the gunman.

Scott said he and state leaders will meet next week in Tallahassee to discuss ways to ensure "individuals with mental illness do not touch a gun."

"The violence has to stop," the governor said. "We cannot lose another child in this country to violence in a school."

A Mississippi bail bondsman said he alerted the FBI last September after someone using the screen name "Nikolas Cruz" posted a comment on his YouTube channel saying: "Im going to be a professional school shooter."

VIDEO: Florida police officer describes arresting Nikolas Cruz
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The police officer who arrested the high school shooting suspect in Florida says the teen looked like a "typical high school student" when he spotted him walking away from the school.

The bondsman explains in a video post that he flagged it for YouTube and called an FBI office in Mississippi to report it. He said FBI agents visited him the next day.

At the press conference, Agent Rob Lasky said the agency did a database review but couldn't determine the time, location or true identity of the person making the comment.

Fourteen survivors of the shooter remained hospitalized as the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, whose classes have been canceled for the rest of the week, seemed deserted.

PHOTOS: Florida school shooting aftermath

According to investigators, Cruz walked onto the campus Wednesday afternoon wearing a gas mask and carrying smoke bombs along with the AR-15.

At first, some students said they heard a fire alarm and thought a drill was underway.

In an interview with "Good Morning America," student Kelsey Friend said a teacher saved her life by sacrificing his own.

"I'm so thankful that he was there to help everybody who did live, in that classroom, because he was in the doorway and the door was still open," she said tearfully.

"The shooter probably didn't know we were in there because" the teacher was lying on the floor, she said. "So if the shooter would have came into the room, I probably wouldn't be speaking with you right now."

Another school staff member and deceased victim, Aaron Feis, was also being hailed as a hero for his actions. Feis, an assistant football coach and campus security guard, used his body to shield students from the gunman, witnesses said.

At another press conference Thursday, Officer Michael Leonard of the Coconut Creek Police Department described arresting Cruz. Leonard said the teenager "looked like a typical high school student" when he spotted him walking away from the campus.

"And for a quick moment, I thought, 'Could this be the person? Is this who I need to stop?'" the officer said, adding that Cruz matched the description that had been distributed. "Training kicked in, I pulled my vehicle over immediately, engaged the suspect."

After being taken into custody without incident, Cruz was questioned by state and federal authorities for several hours.

Law enforcement sources told ABC News that Cruz told them he heard voices in his head that told him what to do during the shooting. Those sources described the voices as "demons."

Cruz's mother, Lynda Cruz, died of pneumonia on Nov. 1; his father passed away years ago after a heart attack. Despite Nikolas Cruz's expulsion from Douglas High School, a fellow student's family invited him to move into their home, which he did around Thanksgiving.

The family's lawyer said they knew the orphaned teenager owned the AR-15 but insisted that he keep it locked in a cabinet. Cruz had the key to the cabinet.

On Thursday night, thousands of people flocked to a candlelight vigil held for the 17 victims in a park in Parkland. The names of all the victims were read aloud and people said they would never forget Feb. 14, 2017.

The Associated Press and ABC News contributed to this report.

VIDEO: Raw footage from scene of the shooting
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Deputies in Florida are responding to reports of shots fired at a high school in the city of Parkland.

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u.s. & worldshootingshooting rampagehigh schoolschool shootinggun violencestudent safetyparkland school shootingFlorida
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