Friederike Heine & Frank Fuhrig –
President Donald Trump on Thursday focused on mental health, not guns, when he addressed the nation in the wake of a school shooting in southern Florida that saw a troubled 19-year-old former student kill 17 people and injure 14 others.
Trump said the rampage in Parkland, Florida showed the need to work with local authorities “to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”
Trump offered no timetable, but said he would travel to Parkland to comfort the grieving and “continue coordinating the federal response,” adding that securing schools would be a top priority at a meeting with governors and state attorneys-general later this month.
The school shooting — the worst in the US since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012 — has once again revived a heated, partisan debate in the US over gun control.
Trump made no mention of pursuing legislation that could restrict firearm sales, in spite of emotional pleas from survivors of the Florida attack who urged the government to do more to prevent gun violence.
Investigators were working to uncover what motivated Nikolas Cruz, who was being held without bond on 17 charges of premeditated murder, to open fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday.
The civil rights group Anti-Defamation League said Cruz had ties to a white nationalist group named Republic of Florida (ROF).
Jordan Jereb, reportedly ROF’s leader, told the Anti-Defamation League that Cruz had a relationship to his group.
The ROF describes itself online as a “white civil rights organisation” that seeks to create a “white ethno-state” in Florida.
Jereb said that Cruz had taken part in ROF training exercises and that the teen had been “brought up” by another member of the group, without giving further details.
Cruz, who had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year, used an AR-15 rifle he had owned legally to carry out the rampage.
Local newspaper Sun Sentinel cited court documents as saying that Cruz had confessed to the shooting.
He set off the school’s fire alarm before entering the premises armed with a gas mask, smoke grenades and several magazines of ammunition.
Broward County Sheriff said Cruz had arrived at the scene in an Uber car, carried out the shooting, hidden in the crowds fleeing the school and visited a McDonald’s restaurant before being detained in nearby Coral Springs without incident.
Students described Cruz as a disturbed teenager with severe behavioural problems who talked about firearms and killing animals.
The shooter had been living with a friend’s family after his adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, died of pneumonia in November. His father died of a heart attack several years ago, according to the Sun Sentinel.
FBI Agent Rob Lasky confirmed that the bureau had received a tip-off last year that someone with the user name “Nikolas Cruz” had posted the following comment on a YouTube video: “Im going to be a professional school shooter.”
Lasky said the FBI had not been able to establish “a time location or the true identity of the person who made the comment.”
US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions said he would commission research from the Justice Department about
how mental illness and violent crime intersect.
“It cannot be denied that something dangerous and unhealthy is happening in our country,” he told the sheriffs. — dpa
Friederike Heine & Frank Fuhrig –