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17 dead in Florida High School shooting; former student arrested

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 A former student went on a shooting rampage at a Florida high school Wednesday, leaving 17 dead while panicked students barricaded themselves inside classrooms and frantic parents raced to the scene.

Some of those mothers and fathers were still waiting into the night for word whether their child survived the massacre. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said five of the 17 victims have still not been identified as of 9:30 p.m. ET — about seven hours after the shooting.

The gunman, who had been expelled and didn’t graduate, was identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. Israel said Cruz was armed with “countless” magazines and an AR-15-style rifle.

Cruz was arrested a short distance from the school near a home, a law enforcement official who is not authorized to comment publicly told USA TODAY. Students recognized the suspect during the assault, he said.

Flanked by officers, the suspect was later escorted into a police station wearing a hospital gown.

“Another horrific day, a detestable day,” Israel said. “I’m absolutely sick to my stomach to see children who go to school armed with backpacks and pencils lose their lives.”

The shooting happened about 2 p.m. at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which is about 30 miles northwest of Fort Lauderdale, according to the Coral Springs Police Department.

The 17 dead include students and adults, Israel said. Others were injured and taken to local hospitals, including at least 14 who were treated at Broward Health Medical Center and Broward Health North in Deerfield Beach.

Several were in critical condition Wednesday night.

Students said chaos ensued when a fire alarm sounded in the school near dismissal time — then the gunfire started. Israel said Cruz started shooting outside then made his way through the school’s hallways.

He wore a gas mask and used smoke grenades “so the kids would come out in the hallways and thus, he had the opportunity with crowded hallways to start picking off people,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told MSNBC.

Student Rebecca Bogart, 17, wasn’t sure whether the reports of shooting were a drill at first.

The school had a fire drill earlier that day, and she knew it was somewhat common to do an active shooter drill.

It wasn’t until the windows of her first floor classroom shattered and Bogart saw a bullet near the shades did she understand what was happening.

“It was really hard to be calm,” Bogart said. “My friend was holding my hand.”

Bogart said that’s what she and her classmates tried to do as they hid from the shooter.

Though she couldn’t see them from under the teacher’s desk where she was hiding, Bogart said she could hear four of her classmates screaming in pain from injuries.

She added she didn’t know whether they had been shot.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel says there are multiple casualties in a shooting at a high school in South Florida. (Feb. 14) AP

When SWAT officers entered the classroom, they escorted students out. As Bogart walked down the hall, she saw students covered in blood.

Officers told the students to get as far away as possible. Bogart said she walked miles before stopping to get picked up by her father.

“I’m still in shock right now,” she said.

Television footage showed the terrifying moments outside the school. Students ran single file from the building with their hands in the air — throwing backpacks into a large pile and huddling under trees across the street.

As students scrambled to safety, law enforcers with weapons drawn approached the building.

The gunman was expelled from the school for “disciplinary reasons,” but Israel didn’t elaborate.

Cameras captured authorities taking Cruz into custody and to a local hospital. Police said the gunman was a member of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) student military program.

Cruz would joke about shooting people or shooting up establishments, she said. At the time, she thought it was normal, violent teenage jokes, she said. Cruz would also talk a lot about having guns and using them in different situations, she said.

Math teacher Jim Gard told the Miami Herald he taught the suspect last year, who he said was troubled.

“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” Gard told the newspaper. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”

Israel said authorities were scouring through anything that would lead them to a motive in the tragedy, including a website and social media pages.

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said it was a dark day in the county’s history.

“It’s a horrific situation. It’s just a horrible day for us,” he said. “… This is a day we prayed would never happen in our county.”

He said every high school in the county has a police presence, adding there are typically two officers at every school.

Worried parents crowded around the school, some asking television crews what they should do to get information on their child, and students cried when they were reunited with their mothers and fathers. Some of the injured were treated on sidewalks and loaded into ambulances.

Twelve of the victims were found inside the school, two were killed outside, and two others died in the hospital. One additional person was killed off the school’s campus, Israel said.

Melissa Falkowski, a teacher at the school, told CNN she hid with her students in a closet until law enforcement cleared them. Footage on local television stations showed SWAT officers entering a classroom with guns drawn and students shaking and crying as they held up their hands.

The shooting rekindled the debate over gun laws, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott was asked multiple times at a 9 p.m. news conference whether this tragedy marked a needed change.

Scott said there is a time and place for that conversation but this was not it, adding he concluded the whole incident was just “pure evil.”

The state has pledged to pay for funeral costs for the victims and cover all counseling.

The White House also released a statement as the tragedy was unfolding.

“The president has been made aware of the school shooting in Florida,” deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said. “We are monitoring the situation. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected.”

The incident comes just weeks after a rampage at a rural Kentucky high school. A 15-year-old faces two counts of murder and 12 counts of first-degree assault after police said he killed two and wounded more than a dozen others in a shooting spree at Marshall County High School in Benton.

There have been at least six school shootings in 2018.

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CHADWICK BOSEMAN DEAD AT 43 FROM COLON CANCER

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Chadwick Boseman, the iconic “Black Panther” star, has died at age 43 after a 4-year battle with colon cancer.

His family released a statement, saying “It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman. Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV.”

They continue that “it was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”

“He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side”

Chadwick, who most famously brought the first black Marvel superhero to life in “Black Panther” along with a string of ‘Avengers’ movies was no stranger to giving life to iconic roles. He portrayed Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall.”

Recently, Chadwick had sparked concern amongst his fans, as he appeared very thin in videos on social media. This worry nearly overshadowed the impactful words he wanted to share with the world about Jackie Robinson and the pandemic.

Born in South Carolina, he always had an affinity for theater, and wrote his first play in high school. He attended the famous predominantly black college, Howard University, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine arts.

He started his career in writing and directing, but clearly, he was meant to be on the other side of the camera. He took the world by storm in 2013 in the role of Jackie Robinson in “42.” On playing that role, Chadwick said, “The story is relevant because we still stand on his shoulders. He started something – I would even say maybe he didn’t even start it, it started before him. But he carried the torch. And he carried it alone for a period of time before other people could help him.” Clearly, he forwarded the narrative of that, as he moved on to play one of the most influential roles of a generation in the portrayal of T’Challa, aka Black Panther.

The impact he had on Hollywood, while too short, was phenomenal. He hosted ‘SNL’ in a very memorable episode, and was slated to start in ‘Black Panther 2’ which was meant to be released in 2022

Chadwick was 43. RIP

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Jacob Blake Hospital Handcuffs Finally Removed

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Jacob is no longer handcuffed to his hospital bed, his felony warrants have been vacated and police stopped guarding him at the hospital … the family’s lawyer stated.

Jacob Blake’s father says his son is handcuffed to his hospital bed despite being paralyzed from the waist down after suffering 7 gunshot wounds from a cop.

Blake’s dad, also named Jacob, says when he visited his son in the hospital Wednesday he found him cuffed to his bed … and immediately questioned why it was necessary.

The elder Blake says he hated seeing his son like that and pointed out … “He can’t go anywhere. Why do you have him cuffed to the bed?”

Blake claims he also hasn’t gotten an answer as to what Jacob was arrested for that would warrant him being handcuffed in the first place.

Jacob’s parents got emotional Tuesday as they spoke outside the Kenosha County Courthouse about their son being shot and his condition, and the family’s lawyer revealed it would be a miracle if he ever walks again.

As we’ve reported … the 29-year-old father was shot 7 times at point-blank range by Kenosha, WI police officer Rusten Sheskey.

Cops say they were initially called to the scene for a domestic disturbance, and the shooting’s being investigated by the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation.

So far, no word from law enforcement about Jacob’s arrest or charges.

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Son of Sweetie Pie’s owner charged in murder-for-hire plot that killed owner’s grandson

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James Timothy Norman of Sweetie Pie‘s fame is facing federal charges alleging he conspired with an exotic dancer in the murder of his eighteen-year-old nephew Andre Montgomery.

The 41-year-old son of the legendary restaurant owner Robbie Montgomery was arrested this morning at his home in Jackson, Mississippi, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney.

Norman, who starred with his family in the show Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s, had feuded with his mother over money in recent years after she sued him for opening restaurants under the Sweetie Pie’s brand without her permission, according to court records.

It was a messy, public spat, but federal authorities say Norman executed a far more sinister conspiracy to have his teenage nephew killed in 2016. According to the criminal complaint unsealed today, Norman had taken out $450,000 in life insurance policies on Andre Montgomery in 2014, and he was the sole beneficiary.

James Timothy Norman was charged in a murder-for-hire plot. - MADISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI DETENTION CENTER
James Timothy Norman was charged in a murder-for-hire plot. – MADISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI DETENTION CENTER

In 2016, Norman was living in Los Angeles. Phone records obtained by investigators showed that leading up to Andre Montgomery’s murder, Norman and a Memphis-based dancer named Teria Ellis headed to St. Louis and communicated over burner phones. Ellis also started contacting Montgomery, sending him her Instagram account handle, Alexusdagreat, and texting that she would be visiting St. Louis.

“I’m on my way in town,” she wrote him in an email on March 10, 2016, according to court records.

Three days later, Norman flew into St. Louis and booked a room at the Chase Park Plaza hotel. The next day, March 14, Ellis contacted Montgomery to figure out where he was, according to the complaint. Cell phone records showed that he texted her the address of a house: 3964 Natural Bridge Ave. in the city. Ellis then called Norman.

That night, at 8:02 p.m., Montgomery was shot to death at the house on Natural Bridge. And investigators believe Ellis was there. Location data from her burner phone put her at the scene, and in one of Montgomery’s final phone calls, he spoke to his girlfriend, who later told investigators she could hear a woman’s voice in the background.

One minute after the eighteen-year-old was shot, Ellis made another call — to Norman.

“Despite being at the scene of Montgomery’s murder at 8:02pm, ELLIS’s first phone call was not to the police, but rather to [NORMAN] at 8:03 p.m., at which time her phone location data showed she was driving in a direction consistent with her returning home in Memphis, Tennessee,” the criminal complaint says.

Phone records would then show the phone moving south along Interstate 55. Norman’s phone showed him flying back to Los Angeles, arriving early the morning after the killing. That same day, March 15, 2016, both the burner phones went dark, authorities say.

Back in Memphis, Ellis began depositing money — $3,020 in a checking account that previously had a negative balance and another $4,340 in a savings account opened the same day. On March 17, 2016, she deposited another $1,900.

On March 22, 2016, she and her mother and daughter flew to Los Angeles. There’s not much information in the court records about what they did there, but authorities say location data for her mom’s phone showed that on at least one occasion they were with Norman.

At the end of April 2016, Norman wired Ellis $700.

Norman waited a week to try to collect on his murdered nephew’s life insurance police, authorities say. On March 21, 2016, he called the bank, but he never provided all the documentation required and still hasn’t gotten the money, according to court records.

He’s now being held without bond at a jail in Madison County, Mississippi. He and Ellis have been charged with conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in commission of murder-for-hire, resulting in death.

The case is being investigated by St. Louis police and the FBI.

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