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News Brief: Florida School Shooting, Latest On Immigration Plan


Yesterday's mass shooting happened at a high school in Parkland, Fla., about an hour north of Miami.


The suspect is in custody. Police say he is a 19-year-old former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Alison Carew has twin daughters who attend the school. She told NPR school staff acted quickly.


ALISON CAREW: These teachers, you know, ran - got all the kids that they could see and shoved them somewhere safe and locked them away so that they didn't get hurt.

MARTIN: This is the 18th shooting at a U.S. school this year. That's according to the group Everytown for Gun Safety. And it appears to be the deadliest shooting in a school since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

INSKEEP: NPR's Sarah McCammon is covering this story. She's in South Florida. And, Sarah, how did this begin? Just walk us through what's known.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Right, Steve. So authorities are still putting the pieces together to a large extent. But so far what they're saying is that the shooter began outside the high school then went inside the school. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has told other news outlets - CNN, for example - that the FBI told him the shooter had a gas mask, smoke grenades and an AR-15 rifle. We also know that a fire alarm was going off at the time, and students said that was confusing because there had already been a fire drill earlier that day. So as a result, the hallways were crowded when the shooter opened fire. And that added to the chaos.

INSKEEP: I guess one of the questions - and we must emphasize it's a question - is did the shooter pull the fire alarm to get people out into the hallways. That's one of the things that people want to know.

MCCAMMON: Right, one of the things that I'm sure authorities are exploring as they try to put all these pieces together.

INSKEEP: And this suspect, who was described as having a gas mask and smoke grenades and AR-15, Nikolas Cruz, what is his connection to the school?

MCCAMMON: So he's a 19-year-old - should say that first. And school officials say he had been enrolled at the high school at one time but was expelled. They didn't get into the details for why Cruz was expelled beyond saying it was for disciplinary reasons. He was still attending school elsewhere in the district we're told. And the sheriff in Broward County, Scott Israel, said authorities were looking at things like Cruz's background, his social media history. And he's describing some of their initial findings in that respect as very, very disturbing. After he was taken into custody, Cruz was also taken to a local hospital briefly to be checked out. And he may make his first court appearance as soon as today.

INSKEEP: What do you know about the victims, Sarah?

MCCAMMON: Not a lot of names so far - as of last night, we know an unknown number of people were still being treated for injuries. Seventeen were confirmed dead - two of whom had died at the local hospital, the rest at the school. We know the victims include both students and adults though we don't know the breakdown of that. And authorities are in the process of identifying those who've died. As of the most recent briefing late last night, 12 of the dead had been officially identified. But, again, those names haven't been released. We do know that one of the victims was said to be a football coach and also that the son of a local sheriff's deputy was shot in the arm but is expected to be OK.

INSKEEP: This is a moment when if you're a parent - as I know you are, Sarah - you have to think about what your kids are going to hear about this and also what they're going to see of this since there are videos that were taken inside the school and have been spread around.

MCCAMMON: Right. And, you know, we're in a moment now where everybody has cell phones including students, and they're taking graphic images at these times. They end up on the Internet. That's something the FBI is looking at. They want that data as part of their investigation. But you do worry about, you know, young children out there seeing this.

MARTIN: I was thinking that exact thing yesterday when I was watching these videos. When I covered the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 - dozens of people killed - there weren't those videos, and the horror somehow stays at a certain distance. It's different now when we see all these images.

INSKEEP: We asked the question are the statistics worse. Are mass shootings worse? By some measures, they are. You could argue in other measures perhaps they're not. But what is absolutely worse is that it's in our face - in our collective faces - in our faces in a different way.

MARTIN: But maybe that makes a difference in a different way.

INSKEEP: NPR's Sarah McCammon is in South Florida. Sarah, thanks very much.

MCCAMMON: Thanks, Steve.


INSKEEP: We are covering some other news this morning. And let's get an update next on the immigration debate in the United States Senate.

MARTIN: This is not exactly going smoothly. Senators go on recess next week. And although a bipartisan group has agreed on this framework for a deal, that framework may not get 60 votes - much less the support of the House. Both parties have concerns about what is in this proposal. So what is in it?

INSKEEP: Well, let's ask Domenico Montanaro, NPR's lead editor for politics who's following all this. Hi there, Domenico.


INSKEEP: What's this compromise look like?

MONTANARO: Well, look. There's a - there are a couple of compromises on the table. But there's no ability to get anything done because, first and foremost, they have to get something passed that President Trump supports. You know, he talks about working it out, about making a deal. But he shows no signs of budging on his four pillars on an immigration bill. Those are giving citizenship to people who are in the U.S. illegally and brought here as children in exchange for border security - aka that wall - limiting legal immigration and ending the diversity lottery program - diversity visa lottery program. You know, he's supporting a bill by Senator Chuck Grassley, the Republican from Iowa. And that bill has the president's full support because it does all of those things.

But there are at least two other bipartisan proposals out there that deal more narrowly with DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The White House has dismissed those though because he says it doesn't do all of the things that he wants. And that centers on not allowing those children who become legalized to sponsor their parents who brought them to the U.S. So if you follow the bouncing ball here, senators have not been able to rally around one bill. Senate leadership's allowing something of a free-for-all. And, you know, they're allowing anything to be tacked on essentially. And that means that no bill can really come out of this process that the president is going to support. And those senators are unwilling to go out on a limb and support something that the president won't get behind and can't pass the House because that could cost them their job.

INSKEEP: Good moment to remember that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised Democrats a debate - a discussion of a bill. He didn't promise there was going to be anything that would pass or that the Republican majority would support.

MONTANARO: Right. And that can make him look like he's magnanimous and open to anything getting done. But it also means that chaos can ensue with regular order because nobody knows what they're going to be able to support or not.

INSKEEP: Very briefly - do you sense that both parties believe that passing a bill is in their political interest?

MONTANARO: It's not clear. You know, it really does fire up Republicans on this issue. And they definitely want to hold the line, and they're not going to give in on anything here - especially something from the president. In fact, the conservatives in the House issued a warning to House Speaker Paul Ryan yesterday. Support what President Trump wants, or it'll be your job.

INSKEEP: Domenico, thanks.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: NPR's Domenico Montanaro.


INSKEEP: Well, South Africa is going through major political change.

MARTIN: Longtime leader Jacob Zuma resigned last night. This is after a whole lot of pressure on him from his own political party. This is the African National Congress. Zuma's government was accused of corruption. And in a nationwide TV broadcast late yesterday, Zuma said he didn't want his refusal to leave office to split the party or lead to bloodshed, so he decided to step down. Big question now - who takes over?

INSKEEP: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is with us. Hi there, Ofeibea.


INSKEEP: And having covered South Africa for as long as you have, what does it mean to have a president who's been there for so long - been so dominant in his country's politics - abruptly step down?

QUIST-ARCTON: It is momentous - momentous for South Africa, for the governing ANC and really for democracy in South Africa because it means democracy after 24 years since Nelson Mandela was elected - this country's first democratically elected leader as well as the first black leader - that democracy is working. But for the ANC, it is really serious. I mean, Jacob Zuma has been in power for nine years. And yet, he was so embittered, angry and indignant during his rant in an interview yesterday before finally standing down. But the party is split, and it's going to elections next year. So the new incoming president - if all goes according to plan today Thursday - Cyril Ramaphosa has his work cut out for him and so does the ANC party.

INSKEEP: Is Cyril Ramaphosa a figure with national prestige - someone who could lead the country?

QUIST-ARCTON: Oh, yes, he has been biding his time. We're told that back in 1994 he was Nelson Mandela's choice to be his deputy president nationally. You know, he was the one who more or less wrote South Africa's incredible constitution. He was a chief negotiator during the transition from white-minority rule to black-majority rule and freedom for all South Africans. And then he had to step away. He became extremely wealthy as a businessman in mining and so on. So yes, he's very much part of the ANC - part of South Africa. But, you know, everything isn't going to just go right - boom - because Cyril Ramaphosa becomes the president.

INSKEEP: Very briefly - what is the most urgent challenge the new president will face?

QUIST-ARCTON: Everything.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) Well, that settles that.

QUIST-ARCTON: The unemployment, an economy that's in the doldrums - and don't forget that this history with ex-president Zuma continues because he may face prosecution for these scandalous allegations of corruption and influence peddling. So he must - Cyril Ramaphosa has to deal with that too. It's not over yet.

INSKEEP: A problem that Americans faced in 1974 when Richard Nixon resigned - the question being does the country prosecute the man or let him go. Ofeibea, thanks very much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.