The suspect in a deadly rampage at a Florida high school is a troubled teenager who posted disturbing material on social media before the shooting spree that killed at least 17 people, according to a law enforcement official and former schoolmates.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said the 19-year-old suspect, Nikolas Cruz, had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for "disciplinary reasons."
"I don't know the specifics," the sheriff said.
However, Victoria Olvera, a 17-year-old junior, said Cruz was expelled last school year after a fight with his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend. She said Cruz had been abusive to his girlfriend.
"I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him," Olvera said.
School officials said Cruz was attending another school in Broward County after his expulsion.
Israel said investigators were dissecting the suspect's social media posts.
"And some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing," he added without elaborating.
Daniel Huerfano, a student who fled Wednesday's attack, said he recognized Cruz from an Instagram photo in which Cruz posed with a gun in front of his face. Huerfano recalled Cruz as a shy student and remembered seeing him walking around with his lunch bag.
"He was that weird kid that you see ... like a loner," he added.
Dakota Mentcher, a 17-year-old junior, said he used to be close friends with Cruz but hadn't seen him in more than a year following his expulsion from school.
"He started progressively getting a little more weird," Mentcher said.
Mentcher recalled Cruz posting on Instagram about killing animals and said he had talked about doing target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.
"He started going after one of my friends, threatening her, and I cut him off from there," Mentcher said.
Broward County School District Superintendent Robert Runcie told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that he did not know of any threats posed by Cruz to the school.
"Typically you see in these situations that there potentially could have been signs out there," Runcie said. "I would be speculating at this point if there were, but we didn't have any warnings. There weren't any phone calls or threats that we know of that were made."
However, a teacher told The Miami Herald that Cruz may have been identified as a potential threat to other students. Jim Gard, a math teacher who said Cruz had been in his class last year, said he believes the school had sent out an email warning teachers that Cruz shouldn't be allowed on campus with a backpack.
"There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus," Gard said.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now