Police had to track down the suspected Florida high school shooter after he escaped the scene by blending in with fleeing students

  • The suspected Florida high-school shooter fled the scene on Wednesday by concealing himself within a crowd of students, authorities said.
  • Police arrested him in a nearby neighbourhood after a manhunt.
  • Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Thursday that there was an armed officer at the high school who never encountered the shooter.

As a deadly mass shooting unfolded at a high school in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday, students rushed to evacuate the school, some filing out in orderly lines with their hands tucked behind their heads.

Among the fleeing students was Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old former student and suspected gunman. He had blended himself into a crowd to escape the scene, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said.

Sheriff Scott Israel said at a press conference Thursday that the high school employed an armed officer who was on campus during the shooting, but the officer never encountered Cruz.

After a manhunt, local police eventually arrested Cruz in a nearby neighbourhood and brought him to a local hospital after he appeared to have difficulty breathing.

One man who witnessed the arrest, Michael Nembhard, told The Washington Post he believed Cruz had made his way through the Coral Springs neighbourhood on foot when a lone police officer approached him.

Nembhard said he heard the cop yell, “Get on the ground!” and saw what appeared to be a teenager lying on the grass. He said within minutes a horde of officers and police cruisers descended on the scene.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office later said they identified Cruz as the suspect after watching footage from the school’s security cameras.

Students who witnessed the scene said Cruz was wearing a military uniform from his US Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) when he was arrested, The Miami Herald reported. Video footage from Cruz’s arrest shows him wearing a maroon-coloured shirt or sweater.

Police charged Cruz with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He was denied bond in a court hearing Thursday afternoon.

Watch a clip of Cruz’s arrest below:

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