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One student at the High School had an encounter with the shooting suspect that left him reeling. During his English class on Wednesday afternoon, Chris McKenna, 15, left to take a bathroom break.
The restrooms were closed on the first floor, so he headed to the second floor. He found the shooting suspect in a stairwell between the first and second floors in the freshman building. Sitting on the stairs, Mr. Cruz was loading a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle.
Mr. Cruz appeared “shocked” when he opened the door to the stairwell, as he was loading the gun. “He told me, ‘Better get out of here, things are about to get messy,’” Chris said.
Minutes later, a fire alarm echoed through the quiet halls. That seemed a little odd to the kids and teachers since a drill had been conducted earlier in the day.
It was Cruz, authorities say, who set off the alarm, sending those students and teachers filing obediently into the hallways and making them easier targets for the carnage to come.
Soon, SWAT teams were on the scene. Officers swept through the building, searching classrooms and ushering weeping students past bloodied bodies to safety. Police were quickly able to identify the suspect and told dispatch that they were able to monitor his movement through closed-circuit surveillance cameras. Still, Cruz was able to slip away amid the chaos. Police found him walking along a quiet street.
The final tally: 17 dead, more than a dozen wounded. The school closed indefinitely while the investigation continues. Counselors were made available for students grappling with the tragedy.