Students return to Florida school where 17 were killed

2018-02-26 07:46
People dressed in white costumes as angels stand by a makeshift memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. (David Santiago, Miami Herald via AP)

People dressed in white costumes as angels stand by a makeshift memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. (David Santiago, Miami Herald via AP)

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Parkland - Students at a Florida high school where 17 of their classmates and staff members were killed returned on Sunday to gather their belongings thrown down in panic during the school shooting nearly two weeks ago.

Thousands of students joined their parents in walking past the three-story building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where the February 14 massacre took place.

It is now cordoned off by a chain link fence that was covered with banners from other schools showing their support.

"Just seeing the building was scary," freshman Francesca Lozano said as she exited the school with her mom. Still, she was happy to see her friends. "That made it a lot better."

READ: School shooting puts pressure on Florida lawmakers to act

Seventeen people dressed in white costumes as angels stood by a makeshift memorial outside the school before moving near the entrance.

Pulse nightclub shooting

Organiser Terry Decarlo said the costumes are sent to mass shootings and disasters so the survivors "know angels are looking over them and protecting them".

Many of Sunday's angels were survivors of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando where 49 people died, Decarlo said.

READ: School shooting survivors target NRA-linked companies

The school reopens on Wednesday and administrators said families would get phone calls about details later. Sunday was a day to ease into the return.

"Two of my best friends aren't here anymore," said freshman Sammy Cooper, who picked up the book bag he had dropped as he saw the accused gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, begin shooting. "But I'm definitely going to school on Wednesday. I will handle it."

Junior Sebastian Pena said the gathering was a chance to see friends and his teachers, and to "come together as a family".

Earlier on Sunday, Florida Governor Rick Scott's office said he had asked Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen to investigate the law enforcement response to the shooting. The agency confirmed it would start the investigation immediately.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has come under withering scrutiny after the revelation last week that deputy Scot Peterson who was on the scene did not go in to confront Cruz during the attack.

His office is also facing backlash for apparently mishandling some of the 18 tipster calls related to the suspected shooter.

The tips were among a series of what authorities now describe as the clearest missed warning signs that Cruz, who had a history of disturbing behaviour, posed a serious threat.

Israel defended his leadership on Sunday and said investigators were looking into claims that three other deputies were on the scene but failed to enter the school when the chance to save lives still existed.

To date, the investigation has pointed to only one deputy being on the grounds while the killer was present, he told CNN.

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