An orphaned 19-year-old with a troubled past and an AR-15 rifle was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder Thursday morning after being questioned for hours by state and federal authorities following the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in five years. Fifteen wounded survivors were hospitalized as bodies were recovered from inside and around Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Nikolas Jacob Cruz was booked into the Broward County Jail early Thursday, still wearing the hospital gown he was given after being treated for labored breathing following his arrest. Just before gunfire broke out, some students at the school thought they were having another fire drill. A law enforcement source said the suspect appears to have pulled the school fire alarm, causing chaos, then started shooting, reports CBS News news senior investigative producer Pat Milton.
An official is familiar with the investigation is saying that Cruz legally purchased his AR-15 rifle about a year ago. Federal law allows people 18 and over to legally purchase long guns. At 21, people can legally buy handguns from a licensed dealer.
The NRA said “the AR-15 has soared in popularity” because it’s “customizable, adaptable, reliable and accurate.” It is also versatile and can be used for “sport shooting, hunting and self-defense situations,” the NRA said, adding the ability to “personalize” so many of the rifle’s components “is one of the things that makes it so unique.”
The NRA estimates Americans own more than 8 million of them.