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US teen confesses to mass shooting at Florida school

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
High school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz(C) is seen with his lawyers on February 15, 2018 at Broward County Court House in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (AFP photo)

A troubled teen with alleged ties to a white supremacist group confessed Thursday to murdering 17 people at his former high school in Florida, as the FBI admitted it had received a tip-off about the 19-year-old gunman yet failed to stop him.

As Americans reeled from the country's worst school massacre since the horror at Sandy Hook six years ago, US President Donald Trump suggested the root cause of the violence was a crisis of mental health -- and defied calls to address gun control.

Terrified students hid in closets and under desks on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, texting for help as the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, stalked the school with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle.

Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, appearing Thursday afternoon before a judge who ordered him held without bond.

After being read his legal rights, "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," court documents showed.

Cruz also admitted he discarded his rifle -- which he bought legally in Florida -- and tactical gear in order to blend in with the crowd to flee the campus, the documents showed.

After the shooting, he stopped at a Wal-Mart store and then McDonald's, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters. He was detained 40 minutes later, after police identified him using school security camera footage.

Expelled from school for disciplinary reasons, Cruz was known to be fixated on firearms -- and had reportedly been identified as a potential threat to his classmates.

In a somber televised address to the nation in response to the 18th school shooting so far this year, Trump vowed to make mental health a priority -- after tweeting about the "many signs" the gunman was "mentally disturbed" -- while avoiding any talk of gun curbs.

Earlier in the day, Trump had asserted that "neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!"

But US authorities themselves were under scrutiny, after the FBI confirmed it was alerted last September to a message posted on YouTube, in which a user named Nikolas Cruz vowed: "I'm going to be a professional school shooter."

In a statement, the FBI said it had carried out "database reviews and other checks" but was unable to identify the person who made the post.

(Source: AFP)


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