Before Nikolas Cruz, 19, ravaged an unsuspecting high school with an AR-15 style rifle, there was one student who could have been his first victim.
A freshman student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Chris McKenna, came face-to-face with the shooter in a second-floor hallway just before the gunfire, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
“You’d better get out of here,” Cruz reportedly told the 15-year-old. “Things are gonna start getting messy.”
The teen was heading to the bathroom when he came across the shooter. He paused only a moment before fleeing the building. According to McKenna, he first encountered Aaron Feis, the school’s assistant football coach who was prepping to open the school’s gates for dismissal and told him about seeing Cruz with a gun. Feis and McKenna were together when Cruz allegedly pulled the fire alarm, which added to the chaos that would shortly follow.
“I told him I saw a gun,” McKenna said. “He said ‘let me go check it out.’ Then he drove me to the baseball field, dropped me off, and went back to the school. That’s the last I saw of him.”
Feis was one of the 17 students and faculty who were slain on Feb. 14. When the shooting started, Feis — also a school security guard as well — reportedly stepped between the shooter and students, taking bullets in the act. He was reportedly hospitalized but was confirmed to be one of the victims early Thursday.
According to McKenna, three of his classmates were killed while a fourth was injured along with more than a dozen others.
“I’m in shock,” he said. “That’s the only thing I can feel right now.”
Cruz had been flagged as a potential threat after a history of disturbing behavior. His since deleted social media was riddled with photos of guns and mentions of animal cruelty. Additionally, a YouTube blogger revealed that he’d contacted the FBI after Cruz posted a comment noting his plans to “be a professional school shooter.”
Before he walked in and opened fire on his former classmates, teachers and faculty, Cruz was allegedly abusive toward his ex-girlfriend. Seventeen-year-old student Victoria Olvera told the Associated Press he was even expelled after fighting with the girl’s new boyfriend.
“I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him,” Olvera said.
According to authorities, he had been banned from coming onto campus with a backpack prior to being expelled over disciplinary issues.
The suspect’s former classmates revealed he had a history of making dark, gun-related jokes and suffered from “a lot of anger management issues.”
“Finding out it was him makes a lot of sense now,” 19-year-old Jillian Davis, who participated in JROTC with Cruz, said.
After the carnage, Cruz ditched the rifle and managed to briefly escape by slipping into the crowd of students. He was later captured without incident in a nearby neighborhood after first going to a Walmart and a Subway. He is now facing 17 counts of premeditated murder and is being held without bond. He has since confessed to the shootings.