ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
A gunman opened fire at a high school in south Florida this afternoon. We're still learning the full scope of the damage, but we do know multiple people were killed, and the suspect is in police custody. Caitie Switalski of member station WLRN is right across from the school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, in Parkland, Fla.
(SOUNDBITE OF SIRENS)
SHAPIRO: Caitie, we can hear those sirens behind you. What's going on where you are right now?
CAITIE SWITALSKI, BYLINE: Hi. So it's still pretty chaotic here. Lots of parents were finally let into the school to pick up children that had been left behind and were finally released. So parents are now crossing the road with their children. It was in the hundreds and hundreds about 10 minutes ago, so now it's calmed down a little bit. There's less crying, and there's still heavy police activity.
SHAPIRO: When you say parents were walking out of the school with their children, what did you see? How were they? Did you talk to any of them?
SWITALSKI: Yes. I talked to two students and a mom and a student on - a few blocks away from the school. And the mother who knew her daughter was safe - she was with her daughter - she was ecstatic. And the students that were still walking home looking for their parents - they said, hey, you know, we were able to text our parents. They know we're OK. Everything's going to be fine. But they were very unsure about their friend. So all the parents walking out of the school now are - you know, there's big hugs. Lots of parents are still on cellphones trying to tell everyone they're all right. And it's still, you know, a mishmash of people letting their emotions out.
SHAPIRO: Yeah. The Broward County sheriff has said there are at least 14 victims. Do you have a sense of the damage that was done this afternoon?
SWITALSKI: No, and there's a lot of rumors of numbers. But, you know, until they're confirmed, nobody wants to say how many. Nobody knows yet if the injuries are from shooting - from being shot or if they're from the stampede. Students told me that, you know, when the shooting happened, it was like a second fire drill of the day. They'd had a scheduled fire drill this morning. And about 20 minutes before the end of their fourth period, the fire alarm went off again, and that's when kids started cracking jokes - so maybe someone shot up the school.
And it wasn't until a couple of students were running behind the masses, evacuating with visible gun wounds that students, you know, went into emergency preparedness mode. And teachers just said, keep walking. Keep going. Go past the boundary of the fire drill. Don't stop until you get past the Walmart that's just around the corner.
SHAPIRO: Police have a suspect in custody. What can you tell us about this person?
SWITALSKI: Right now the Broward County Sheriff's Office is saying they are a former student. They're 19 years old, and they've been taken to a Broward Health facility.
SHAPIRO: Just in the few seconds we have left, describe this area and this school. It's - what? - 3,000-some students go there.
SWITALSKI: In total. Now, the shooting was just in the high school portion of the school. The middle school and elementary school were fine. The area around this - there's a Publix. There's a car wash. It's your average suburban intersection - a gym, T-Mobile around me, lots of cars.
SHAPIRO: Caitie Switalski, thank you. We will continue checking in with you this evening - appreciate your time.
SWITALSKI: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: Caitie Switalski is a reporter with member station WLRN. She was speaking with us outside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where there was a shooting today in Parkland, Fla.
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