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Florida Students Shaken Over Shooting Plan To March In D.C.


We're going to turn now to Florida, where funerals have started in Parkland. That's where a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday left 17 people dead. There is a major effort underway to help individuals and families who are struggling with the shooting, but there's also a lot of anger over missed clues and warning signs that might have helped authorities prevent it. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann has that story.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: I'm standing outside a new family counseling and support center that's opened here in Parkland. And a lot of the people coming through the door - they look shattered.

MEGAN SMITH: Meadow and Joaquin were in my class. They didn't make it back. And the things that I saw - they were bad.

MANN: That's Megan Smith (ph), a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She's talking about Joaquin Oliver and Meadow Pollack, two people who were in her class that day. They died in the shooting. Smith says the man police say confessed to these murders - 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz - shouldn't have been on the street.

SMITH: He had problems, and I think that people who have those problems and are obviously messed up should be put somewhere else. I don't think that he should have been allowed to even be in a home or on his own at all because he had serious problems, and everyone knew it.

MANN: It's clear now that Cruz wasn't a guy who flew under the radar. The FBI has acknowledged receiving specific information two separate times that Cruz might be a danger, the latest tip just last month. They failed to act on that information. School and mental health officials here have also disclosed that Cruz had long case files, including violent and troubling behavior that went largely untreated.

MELISSA MCNEILL: He's a broken human being. He's a broken child.

MANN: Melissa McNeill (ph), Cruz's public defender, says as pressure on the gunman grew and his mental health deteriorated, no one intervened. Then came Wednesday's rampage.


MCNEILL: He's sad. He's mournful. He's remorseful. He is fully aware of what is going on. And he's just a broken human being.

MANN: Cruz now faces a possible death penalty for the 17 murders, and the families here are struggling. Megan Smith's mom, Mandy (ph), says she's glad for the counseling help, but she's not sure how her daughter gets past this.

MANDY: I don't know how to help. I can't take it away. I can't make that better.

MANN: Nikolas Cruz could be back in court as early as Monday morning.

Brian Mann, NPR News, Parkland, Fla.

(SOUNDBITE OF TYCHO'S "SOURCE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.