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Arrest made in school Snapchat threat circulating nationwide

Law enforcement agencies in Florida want to reassure families about an image making the rounds on social media. 

>> Read more trending news

It shows what appears to be a student holding a gun and then says the name of a school along with "Round two of Florida," implying the threat of another shooting. 

The image has been circulated across the country, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies said they always take school threats seriously, but will be especially vigilant given Wednesday’s mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

A high school student in South Carolina was arrested Thursday and faces charges for that threat.

Another high school student in Vermont was arrested Thursday night for allegedly making shooting threats.

Meanwhile, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said it will provide an increased presence at several schools and is prepared to respond to all reports of threats and suspicious activity. 

Deputies responded to Pine Ridge High School on Thursday afternoon after a student found two bullets stuck between two mats in the school’s weight room. No weapon was found and there were no threats of violence.

A 17-year-old student was questioned because he had been spotted sitting near the area where the ammunition was found. However, the student had no knowledge of the bullets.

“We treat every one of these incidents seriously and we will do everything we can to make sure every student is safe at school, especially in today’s heightened state of alarm,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said. “I want to encourage everyone to report suspicious activity when they see it. Don’t hesitate. If you see something, say something, and we will do something. 

Other law enforcement agencies in Central Florida said any “copycat” threats will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law

In Massachusetts, the principal at Durfee High School in Fall River said in an audio message to parents Thursday the school would have an elevated police presence, with random bag checks conducted and other, unannounced security measures in place.

Several Durfee High School students reported the post to police after seeing it.

Principal Matt Desmarais said the threats are not seen as credible, but school officials are acting cautiously and appreciate the students who spoke up.

"I want to reinforce the statement, 'See something, say something,'" Desmarais said. "This cannot be stressed enough. I am appreciative of those who brought this to our attention today. It is the students who choose to do the right thing each and every day who truly represent the Durfee High School.”

South Florida principal waited for hours to hear news of son in Parkland

A Florida high school principal took to the morning announcements Thursday to assure students and warn that some privileges may soon go away in the name of safety.

>> Read more trending news

But in short order, Spanish River High School Principal William Latson’s tough love dissolved into near tears — the cracking voice and long pauses of a principal who is also a parent who waited more than six hours to hear news of his son, a seventh-grader at a middle school next to Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, where a shooting left 17 people dead and more than a dozen injured.

“The bottom line is I need to keep you safe and I need to do things that the principal at Stoneman Douglas can’t do today and that is send all the kids home safe,” Latson said, his voice cracking.

>> Florida school shooting: What we know about the victims

Wednesday’s shooting had principals and administrators across the Palm Beach County School District focused on safety before the first bell Thursday.

While some principals sent home emails or recorded robo-calls to parents, the district’s chief operating officer, Donald Fennoy, said work had begun to address a backlog of safety-related work orders that had been put off for a year or more because of budget shortfalls.

“They’re moving on this right now,” Fennoy said at lunchtime Thursday.

In the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, Palm Beach County administrators tapped the Boca Raton and other local police departments to provide additional security at schools in the region. While the police presence was up, attendance, particularly in the southernmost schools, was down. The students are off Friday while teachers have a work day. School will be back in session Monday.

A Boynton Beach mothre of two elementary students echoed other parents when she reported to The Palm Beach Post Extra Credit Facebook group that she kept her children home Thursday to shield them from chatter about increased police presence and shootings.

Latson’s son also sat out school, staying with grandparents instead, the principal said.

Though Westglades Middle School opened for business, its neighbor, Stoneman Douglas -- as the locals call it -- remained a crime scene. 

“He doesn’t need to see that,” Latson said.

At the same time, Latson said he invited police to roam his campus to assess possible security risks in the way the school operates. Their observations will inform the changes he spoke of in his six-minute address to Spanish River students.

The message that followed the Pledge of Allegiance was unscripted, Latson said. The principal began by crediting his students for their history of responsible behavior but said some of their previously negotiated on-campus perks might have to be curbed.

While Latson hadn’t intended to describe his own pain, it just spilled out, he said.

“Yesterday, I spent six and a half hours at Stoneman Douglas because my son … he’s on the same campus. So he was right in the middle. The individual ran from Stoneman Douglas, went on to his campus and went off. So, I‘m speaking as a parent knowing how I felt not having information about my child,” Latson said. “I don’t want that for your parents.”

He referenced changes that will soon allow administrators to directly message parents through apps on their cell phones, a tool he wished the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High principal had Wednesday. Latson then signed off. “We will get through this. We will make some changes. I want you to have as normal a day as possible.”

Student arrested after allegedly threatening shooting at Vermont high school

Police in Vermont arrested a high school student Thursday after the 18-year-old allegedly said he wanted to harm others, WPTZ reported.

>> Read more trending news

Detectives with the Fair Haven Police Department arrested Jack Sawyer, 18, of Poultney, Vermont, after he reportedly said he wished to commit a shooting at Fair Haven High School.

>> Attorneys: Nikolas Cruz is a ‘broken child’

The investigation is ongoing, and police are questioning Sawyer, WCAX reported.

Sawyer was being held without bail and was scheduled to be arraigned Friday on charges of attempted aggravated murder, attempted first degree murder and attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, WCAX reported.

>> Suspected Florida school shooter held without bond

The arrest comes a day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people died. Nikolas Cruz was arrested and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He remains on suicide watch at the Broward County jail.

Authorities identify 'official' GoFundMe for Douglas shooting victims

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a number of GoFundMe accounts surfaced claiming to point donations to victims and their families.

>> Photos: Remembering Parkland Florida school shooting victims

Today, citing “several” fraudulent accounts, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office pointed those wishing to make a donation in support of the victims and their families to a GoFundMe page established by the Broward Education Foundation. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office says it is the “official” page.

The Broward Education Foundation identifies itself as a 501(c)3 organization that is “the ONLY direct support organization solely dedicated to raising funds for Broward County Public Schools.”

They invoked “Superintendent Robert Runcie, the School Board of Broward County, Broward County Mayor Beam Furr and Commissioners, Broward Legislative Delegation and Broward County Public Schools family” in offering thoughts and prayers to the victims, saying donations “will be used to provide relief and financial support to the victims and families of the horrific shooting.”

With a goal of $700,000, the fundraiser has reached more than $550,000 as of this writing.

The state of Florida plans to cover funeral costs for victims of the school shooting, one of several in 2018 alone.

Nikolas Cruz is a ‘broken child’ who’s sorry about Parkland shooting, attorneys say

Accused school killer Nikolas Cruz is a “remorseful” and “broken child” whose life came apart after the devastating loss of his mother in November, his attorneys say.

>> Read more trending news 

Cruz, 19, remains on suicide watch at the Broward County jail after being ordered held without bond Thursday on 17 counts of premeditated murder after the shooting Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Wearing orange jail scrubs and shackled at the waist and ankles, he looked down and said two words – “Yes, ma’am” — when Circuit Judge Kim Mollica asked him if he understood the charges.

Cruz had a fascination with guns, was avoided by students at the high school before he was expelled and once trained with a white supremacist group. He also might have sent a Youtube comment in September saying: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.’’

>> Related: Suspected Florida school shooter held without bond, accused of killing 17: Live updates 

But his attorneys, in an emotional news conference, tried to paint a sympathetic portrait of a sad teenager who has expressed remorse for the shootings, which culminated a life that spiraled out of control in recent months.

“He is a deeply troubled child who has endured significant loss. He fell between the cracks,’’ said Gordon Weekes, executive assistant public defender.

“He is also saddened by the loss of those family members, by the loss of those children. He has expressed that.”

Cruz and his biological brother Zachary were adopted at birth by an older couple. His father died 13 years ago and his mother Lynda died from pneumonia on Nov. 1 after Cruz had tried to persuade her to seek medical help.

“He encouraged her to go to the hospital to seek treatment. That didn’t work out. That is a significant bit of trauma this young man endured in a very short period of time,” Weekes said.

Assistant public defender Melisa McNeill said Cruz has suffered from mental illness throughout his life and that it’s possible he is autistic.

“He is a broken human being. He is a broken child,’’ she said.

>> Related: Florida school shooting: What we know about the victims 

Right after his mother died, Cruz lived for a few weeks with a family friend at the Lantana Cascades Mobile Home Park west of Lantana. About Thanksgiving, he was taken in by the Snead family in Pompano Beach, where he had his own room.

>> Related: Photos: Remembering Parkland Florida school shooting victims

“The family took him in. They knew his mom had died. They got him a job at Dollar Tree. And they helped him continue his education. They’re totally shocked,’’ said attorney Jim Lewis, who represents the Sneads.

The Sneads have a 17-year-old son who is a junior at the high school and was there during the shooting, Lewis said.

“They didn’t have any clues,” Lewis said. “They didn’t see anything in this kid, that he was a danger or that he harbored any ill feelings toward the high school.”

In September, the FBI was warned about an eerie comment on a Youtube channel from a user named Nikolas Cruz: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.’’

Robert Lasky, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami office, confirmed Thursday that the agency had looked into the “professional shooter” comment but could not uncover any details from the account.

“No other information was included in the comment, which would indicate a time, location, or true identity of the person who made the comment,” Lasky told reporters. “The FBI conducted database reviews, checks, but was unable to further identify the person who made the comment.”

>> Related: Father of Parkland shooting victim to mourners at vigil: ‘I don’t know what to do next’ 

On Wednesday, hours after the shooting, Buzzfeed reported that a video blogger from Mississippi saw the comment from a user named Nikolas Cruz and informed the FBI.

The Nikolas Cruz YouTube account remained active until Wednesday evening. It has since been deleted.

Ben Bennight, the blogger who reported the Cruz comment, said he alerted the FBI in September and told agents from the Mississippi field office that he didn’t know anything about the user.

That was the last contact he had with the FBI until Wednesday, he told CNN.

“I saw the story kind of go across my newsfeed, but I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it,” he recalled Thursday. “But when the FBI said it was the same name, the first thing that went through my mind was, ‘Wow, I hope you were at least watching this guy that I alerted you to months ago.’”

Also Thursday, the Anti Defamation League announced that it had been told by Republic for Florida, a white supremacist group, that Cruz had trained with the group.

>> Related: Florida school shooting: How difficult is it to purchase a gun in Florida?

ROF member Jordan Jereb, who is based in Tallahassee, told the ADL that Cruz had been “brought up” by a member. “Jereb added that Cruz had participated in one or more ROF training exercises in the Tallahassee area, carpooling with other ROF members from South Florida,’’ according to an ADL blog post.

Jereb said that ROF had not ordered or wanted Cruz to do anything like the school shooting, the ADL said.

Later on social media, Jereb said there been a misunderstanding.

"There was a legit misunderstanding because we have MULTIPLE people named Nicholas in ROF," he said in a profanity-laced post on Twitter and on a website called Gab.

Cruz was known among Douglas students as “a weird kid. No one really talked to him,’’ said Dylan O’Neill, 15, a sophomore.

Cruz was dropped off at the school just after 2 p.m. by an Uber driver, according to sheriff’s report.

A witness who recognized Cruz as “a former troubled student” saw him get out of a small “goldish colored” vehicle wearing black pants, a black hat and a maroon shirt – later identified as having school logos on it.

He also carried a duffel bag and wore a black backpack.

The witness radioed a co-worker that “Cruz was walking purposefully” toward a building at the school. Less than a minute later, about 2:23 p.m., gunshots rang out.

Cruz pulled the fire alarm to lure students out of the building, according to Sen. Bill Nelson.

>> Related: Florida school shooting survivor to Trump: ‘I don’t want your condolences’

Cruz legally bought the AR-15 used in the mass shooting, according to the sheriff’s report. The report indicates he also confessed to the shooting.

“In a post Miranda statement, Cruz stated that he was the gunman who entered the school campus armed with a AR-15 and began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on the school grounds.’’

On Thursday, Cruz appeared on closed circuit video in a courtroom that was cleared of all other inmates. Cruz, who is slight and skinny, looked down the entire time he was before the judge.

“You are charged with some very serious crimes,” Mollica told him.

After the hearing, Weekes said Cruz is remorseful but also mentally disturbed.

“He is deeply sad. He is dealing with the shock of all of this from this point on. He recognizes the loss that this community faces and more important the loss of those family members,’’ Weekes said.

Weekes was overcome by emotion several times as he tried to speak in Cruz’s defense.

>> Related: ‘A kid that's 19 shouldn't have a gun:' Student at Florida school shooting recounts tense hours hiding in closet 

“The child is deeply troubled and he has endured significant trauma that stems from the loss of his mother,” he said.

“There are losses on all sides.”

Florida school shooting: What we know about the victims

Authorities said 17 people died and more than a dozen others were injured Wednesday when a gunman opened fire on students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Several people remained hospitalized Thursday.

Here’s what we know about the victims so far:

READ MORE: Read: Trump addresses nation after deadly Florida high school shooting | Florida school shooting: Football coach shot, killed while protecting students hailed as hero | Photos: Nation mourns after Florida school shooting | Florida school shooting: At hospital, anxious father can't find daughter | MORE

Father of Parkland shooting victim to mourners at vigil: ‘I don’t know what to do next’

Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter, Jaime, in Wednesday’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, tearfully addressed hundreds of mourners Thursday night at a candlelight vigil in Parkland, Fla.

>> Read more trending news 

“I don’t know what I do next,” he said, his voice breaking. “Don’t tell me there’s no such thing as gun violence. It happened in Parkland.”

Guttenberg told the gathering he’d lost his brother in October to cancer related to the Sept. 11 attacks.

“This is worse,” he said.

Politicians, clergy and first responders sat on the Parkland Amphitheater’s stage in front of a row of lighted angels. In front of them, the stage was lined with candles, flowers and hand-written messages brought by mourners.

>> Related: Suspected Florida school shooter held without bond, accused of killing 17: Live updates 

A Douglas High football player, who lost his coach, Aaron Feis, brought a bouquet given to him by his father, who entered a CVS store to purchase the flowers. When the store learned what they were for, it would not accept payment.

Sheriff Scott Israel received a loud ovation when he said, “We will introduce common-sense gun laws and make our streets safer.”

Turning to politicians, including Gov. Rick Scott, Israel warned that if they continue to support gun laws as they’re currently written, “You will not get re-elected in Broward County.”

Later, a chant broke out: “No more guns! No more guns! No more guns!”

Douglas Principal Ty Thompson said he’d received countless emails of support from as far away as Australia. He said earlier in the day, he took a call from Dawn Hochsprung, who offered advice on how to deal with the tragedy because there is no playbook for administrators to handle such mass grief by children.

>> Related: Florida school shooting: What we know about the victims 

A rabbi opened the one-hour program by acknowledging the difficulty of grasping the fact that 17 lives have been lost.

“They say that God doesn’t give one more than they can handle,” he said. “But this is pushing it.”

Barack Obama calls for 'common-sense' gun laws after Florida shooting

Former President Barack Obama issued a statement after 17 people were killed and more than a dozen others injured in a mass shooting at a Florida high school, saying that we “are not powerless.”

>> Photos: Remembering Parkland Florida school shooting victims

On Wednesday, Nikolas Cruz, 19, set off the fire alarm before he started shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Cruz terrorized the school with an AR-15 style rifle for more than an hour before being apprehended. All of the victims have been identified, but names are slowly being released to the public as the victims’ families are notified.

Following the shooting, former President Obama took to Twitter, calling for “long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws.”

>> Read more trending news

“We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job. And until we can honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep them safe from harm, including long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws that most Americans want, then we have to change,” he tweeted Thursday afternoon.

Obama didn’t elaborate on what type of common sense gun laws he thinks should be enacted, but in the months before he left office, a regulation was put in place that added “people receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs” to the national background database, according to NBC News. However, in February 2017, President Donald Trump signed a bill that rolled back the regulation.

In June 2017, a Quinnipiac poll revealed that 94 percent of individuals surveyed supported requiring background checks for all gun buyers, but according to the Associated Press, Cruz purchased the gun legally at a Broward County gun store.

Florida runs an instant background check on those purchasing guns, but he would have been able to easily pass the check because he had no criminal background. The check would not have picked up on his long history of being treated for mental illness.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said during a press conference Thursday that he would discuss increasing funding for mental illness services and keeping guns out of the hands of mentally ill with the Florida Legislature next week.

“If somebody is mentally ill, they can’t have access to a gun,” Scott said.

Student with two guns arrested at another Florida high school

A day after 17 people were killed in a school shooting in Broward County, a student at Palm Beach Lakes High School on Thursday allegedly brought two guns to school, officials said.

>> Read more trending news 

In a recorded call to parents, Palm Beach Lakes High SchoolPrincipal David Alfonso said they received an anonymous tip that a student had a weapon on campus. When administrators and school police went to investigate the situation, the student, who was not named and whose age and grade are unknown, ran out of the school, on Military Trail south of 45th Street. The student was apprehended across the street, Alfonso said.

School police found two guns near the area where the student fled. The student was arrested and faces possible expulsion. It’s unclear if the student will be charged as an adult.

>> Related: Suspected Florida school shooter held without bond, accused of killing 17: Live updates 

“Everyday I go over our four rules here at Lakes. Rule number four is ‘Protect this house,’ ” he said. “If you hear anything, see anything, say something to an administrator, teacher, adult or parent. Our students are listening and protecting our campus.”

Hours before at the Palm Beach County jail, 17-year-old Terrance McMillian had his first appearance in court on weapon related charges. McMillian is accused of bringing a loaded gun to Forest Hill High School, on Forest Hill Boulevard east of Interstate 95.

After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday, Superintendent Robert Avossa sent out a message saying district administrators were working with local and school police to “have an presence in our schools for the days and weeks ahead.” On his Twitter account, he encouraged students to speak up if they saw anything disturbing or worrisome either at their schools or on social media.

>> Related: Florida school shooting: What we know about the victims 

“Take all the politics out of the discussion about gun violence — when innocent kids and their teachers are murdered, something must be done,” Avossa tweeted.

Couple surprises each other with marriage proposals on same day

What’s better than a surprise marriage proposal? A double engagement, of course. That’s what happened to Tori Monaco and Berkley Cade earlier this week, when the Texas couple discovered they both had been plotting to propose during their trip to Washington. 

>> Read more trending news 

According to Buzzfeed, Cade, who is stationed in the Air Force in Texas, enlisted Monaco’s best friend to go ring shopping four months ago. Little did she know, Monaco, a University of Texas senior and New Braunfels native, called up Cade’s mom to say SHE had just bought a ring, too.

"[Cade’s mom] said she was planning a fun game night already, so I could do it then so Berk wouldn't be suspicious," Monaco told Buzzfeed. "I said great, I could incorporate it into charades, and she said how about Pictionary!"

Of course, the Pictionary-perfect proposals were caught on video: 

>> Related: Amy Schumer marries chef Chris Fischer in secret ceremony

Buzzfeed reports the couple is planning a wedding for Sept. 27, 2019.

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