Players, coaches grieve loss of 'hero' coach in Florida school shooting

Courtesy Ryan Mackman(PARKLAND, Fla.) -- A Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School football player who joined teammates and coaches in an interview that aired Friday on Good Morning America remembered slain coach and campus monitor Aaron Feis as “one of the best guys I know.”

Feis, who was among the 17 people whom a former student allegedly killed Wednesday in a shooting rampage, died while saving lives, according to authorities, who were unable to provide details.

But the particulars don’t matter to grieving players such as Robbie Rodriquez, a junior on the football team.

The coach, 37, was “one of the best guys I know -- just open-hearted, open to anyone, always there for people."

Others players expressed similar sentiments.

“Say someone messed up; he wouldn't come over screaming at you,” sophomore Gage Gaynor told Good Morning America. “He'd come over, tell you what you did wrong, tell you how you could do it right.”

Teammate Patrick Scullen, a junior, called Feis a “great coach" and "great man.”

“He always put a smile on my face every single day,” Patrick added.

Team head coach Willis May shared his shock on hearing the news, adding that it will be tough to return to coaching without Feis by his side.

“I didn't want to believe it. I didn't want it to be true,” May said, adding, "Things are going to be real hard to go back to school and not see my buddy.”

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who confirmed the death Thursday morning, said Feis died "protecting others -- guarantee that because that's who Aaron Feis was. He was one of the greatest people I knew. He was a phenomenal man."

The sheriff described Feis as a beloved football coach who was well-known in the local community.

"I coached with him. My two boys played for him," Israel said. "The kids in this community loved him, adored him."

The alleged shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was arrested for premeditated murder and held without bond Thursday afternoon, authorities said. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School remains closed on Friday, according to Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.

Cruz had been expelled from the high school for unspecified disciplinary reasons, authorities said. A former classmate and a former teacher told ABC News that Cruz was barred from carrying a backpack on campus prior to his expulsion.

Wednesday's school shooting is among the deadliest in U.S. history. Cruz allegedly used an AR-15-style rifle that he legally purchased within the past year from a federally licensed dealer, law enforcement officials told ABC News.

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How a temporary restraining order for guns could help stop mass shootings

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- One relatively unknown tool for stopping gun violence may soon get a lot more attention.

An extreme risk protection order (ERPO) empowers family members and police to take guns away from a person who may pose a danger to themselves or others. The person's access to firearms is blocked until they can demonstrate that the risk is over. Essentially, ERPOs are a temporary restraining order for guns.

As of now, only Washington, California, Connecticut and, most recently, Oregon have ERPO laws, while Indiana and Texas have modified risk warrant statutes. Over the past year, however, spurred by a string of mass shootings -- beginning with the Pulse nightclub attack that killed 49 in June 2016 -- legislatures in 19 states and Washington, D.C., have taken up 32 separate ERPO bills for consideration, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control.

Everytown’s deputy legal director, William Rosen, told ABC News that list will grow. “We expect to see at least as much interest in 2018,” he said.

“There is a growing consensus that this is the first step we should be taking when we are talking about people who are at risk of hurting themselves or others,” said Lauren Alfred of the gun violence prevention group Sandy Hook Promise.

Current laws barring gun ownership are limited. Generally, a person with a long history of mental health issues can still legally buy or possess firearms if they don’t fall into specific statutory categories such as having been adjudicated mentally ill or under a domestic violence restraining order. But, as was the case with Texas church gunman Devin Kelley, even these restrictions may not work if the person’s troubled past is not recorded on a background registry.

With an ERPO, however, if family members or police can show a gun owner to be an imminent danger to themselves or others, they can force the person to surrender their weapon(s).

Mass murderers such as Aaron Alexis, who killed 12 at the Washington Navy Yard, or Elliot Rodger, who slaughtered six in Isla Vista, California, are cited by experts as people who might have been halted by ERPOs.

"Those were both cases where law enforcement believed those shooters might be a threat to their workplaces or people they knew,” Alfred said. “But law enforcement felt like their hands were tied."

Where ERPOs are believed to be most often effective is in stemming suicides. For example, Everytown cites a study of the law in Connecticut -- where it has been in place the longest --  that states that from 1999 to 2013, "for every 10 or 11 gun removal cases, one suicide was averted -- an estimated 72 averted suicides.”

While there is a clear spike in the number of states considering ERPOs, efforts to implement these laws have faced significant resistance from those who want to protect constitutional rights to gun ownership.

As Oregon’s state legislature was considering its ERPO law this summer, the National Rifle Association said in a statement that the bill “would allow people who are not mental health professionals, who may be mistaken and who may only have minimal contact with the respondent to file a petition with the court and testify on the respondent’s state of mind.”

The ERPO “strips the accused of their Second Amendment rights" and "would be issued by a judge based on the brief statement of the petitioner,” the NRA's statement added.

The answer to such concerns embedded in these laws is that courts must show “substantial evidence” that a person is a risk to themselves or to others. In addition, the removal of the firearm is only temporary -- generally a year -- unless the ERPO is renewed in a later hearing. These measures have "overcome a lot of the Second Amendment legal and political concerns," according to Alfred.

While it is impossible to determine how many of the recent shooting tragedies ERPOs could have prevented, they could have provided at least “another layer of protection,” said Rosen. “Mass shooters often display warning signs before they carry out their attacks, and ERPO provides an opportunity for family members or law enforcement to intervene before a tragedy occurs.”

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Why AR-15-style rifles are popular among mass shooters

George Frey/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz mowed down at least 17 adults and students at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday, he was armed when an AR-15-style rifle that he purchased legally.

AR-15-style rifles have become something of a weapon of choice for mass shooters. One was used last year to kill 26 people during Sunday-morning church services in Sutherland Springs, Texas. And it was among the stockpile of firearms used a month earlier to kill 58 concertgoers in Las Vegas.

AR-15-style rifles were also used at the shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida; at an employee training in San Bernardino, California; and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

So why is this type of weapon so popular among mass shooters? Gun experts told ABC News it has nothing to do with the AR-15's lethality, but rather simple familiarity.

“In the U.S., our go-to rifle is the AR-15. It’s known as the American rifle,” former SWAT team member and gun expert Dean Hazen said. “Most police departments carry it; our military carries a militarized version of it. In some mass shootings, the shooter had low knowledge of firearms. They just grabbed what they know, and that’s the AR-15.”

Pete Blair, executive director of Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center -- which studies mass murder -- echoed Hazen's comments.

“The AR is the most popular rifle platform in the U.S.,” Blair said.

The fact that so many mass shooters are using the same gun is what sociologists call “social proof,” he added.

Hazen said this phenomenon takes place when one is in an "ambiguous" situation and don't know how to proceed. "That can be looking at what silverware other people use at a fancy dinner party and copying them, or it can be using the same type of weapon other shooters have used if you’re planning a mass shooting.”

Hazen added, "It’s a copycat thing. When they see other mass shooters use it, it reinforces the image in their mind that this is the evil tool to use.”

The NRA said the AR-15 has “soared in popularity” because it is “customizable, adaptable, reliable and accurate” and “can be used in sport shooting, hunting and self-defense situations.”

Blair doesn’t believe those are the reasons why mass shooters are choosing the AR-15, though.

“I don’t see a lot of customization happening with the guns mass shooters use. They’re pretty much using the stock AR, which is easy to operate and straightforward,” Blair said.

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Juvenile arrested in South Carolina for threatening copycat shooting attack

iStock/Thinkstock(SPARTANSVILLE, S.C.) -- A juvenile was arrested in South Carolina on Thursday after posting to social media a message that warned of a shooting rampage similar to the attack that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday in Parkland, Florida, officials announced Thursday night.

The social media post in question, which was shared by the Broward County Sheriff's Office, features a photo of the suspect holding a firearm. The unidentified individual's face is blurred in the version distributed by officials. Across the image is a banner that reads "Round 2 of Florida tomorrow."

The Broward County Sheriff's Office said in a statement Thursday, "A recent post with the title 'Florida Round 2' and the image of a male with a firearm and a mask has been circulating over various social media channels. We have investigated the origin, and the original poster was arrested by local authorities in South Carolina."

The statement continued, "Variations of the post have continued to be circulated over social media with captions added to warn people not to go to various schools throughout South Florida. The posts being circulated are being monitored for any violations of law or threats to public safety."

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office, located on the state's Gulf Coast, also confirmed that the image did not represent a "local threat."

"Our detectives have confirmed it is a photo of a juvenile in Spartanburg, South Carolina," read a tweet from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. "He has been arrested."

The Broward County Sheriff's Office warned would-be copycats, "Remember, any posts that appear to be threatening in nature or are of a concern to a user should be brought to the attention of law enforcement, who will monitor and investigate the validity and attempt to identify the source.”

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Florida sheriff tells vigil: Officials 'will not get re-elected' if gun laws stay same

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(PARKLAND, Fla.) -- Hundreds of people attended vigils remembering the 17 victims who were killed in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday.

Several speakers took to an elevated stage to pray for those who died, the injured who are recovering in the hospital and the first responders and school staff who worked valiantly to keep them safe.

"We mourn for the potential that was lost -- for the hopes, for the joys, for the dreams that will never be realized," one speaker said of the young victims and the heroes who died while protecting the students.

Nearly every seat in the outdoor auditorium was filled, with an audience so large that it spilled onto the sidewalk on the other side of the fence separating the area.

Some members of the crowd nodded silently, while others cried with their hands buried in their faces, as numerous prayers were read.

Earlier in the day, 17 balloons were released during a vigil at the Parkland Baptist Church, one for each who was killed.

Multiple students were in attendance at a separate vigil at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, showing their support for their fallen classmates by wearing shirts emblazoned with an eagle, the school's mascot.

Later in the evening, a candlelight vigil was held. The vigil lasted about an hour and included a solemn reading of the 17 people who were killed in the shooting.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel made pointed comments on gun control, saying, "If you are an elected official and you want to keep things the way they are and not do things differently, if you wanna keep the gun laws as they are now -- you will not get re-elected in Broward County."

The statements received a round of applause from the crowd.

Among the speakers at the evening event were Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who attended Stoneman Douglas High School and graduated in 2007.

"While I don't have all the answers, I know that something has to change before this is visited on another community, and another community and another community," Rizzo said.

"We don't know who's hiding their sadness or feelings of guilt and loneliness, or who needs help and is too proud or afraid to ask," he added. "So we have to be there for each other, we have to cope with our pain, and we have to live each other's pain."

On Wednesday afternoon, a former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, allegedly opened fire on the school campus. In addition to those who died in the attack, more than a dozen people were injured, some critically.

Cruz, who has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, appeared in court Thursday afternoon and is being held in the Broward County Jail without bond.

At the vigil, prayers were read for Cruz and his extended family as well.

"We ask that you would intervene in his disturbed mind and show him the hope that can only be found in you," one speaker prayed, holding back tears. "We pray for your miraculous work to be evident in him, and in spite of him."

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Winter storm on the way for the Northeast

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Heavy rain and storms moved through Ohio Valley and parts of the Northeast overnight Friday, but it's a second line of storms that will bring snow to the region on Saturday.

The storm system already brought snow to parts of Colorado, including up to 18 inches in some parts and a few inches west of Denver.

A winter storm watch has already been posted for part of the I-95 corridor from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts, including New York City, Hartford, Connecticut and Boston.

The storm is expected to move east from the Rockies on Saturday and will move into the Washington, D.C., area around 5 p.m.

The snow will begin in New York City around 8 p.m. Saturday evening.

Snow begins in Boston closer to midnight.

The heaviest snow is expected away from the coast -- west of Washington, D.C.; west of Philadelphia; north of New York City; and west of Boston, where 7 inches could accumulate locally.

In the major cities along the I-95 corridor, it looks like there could be up to 1 inch in Washington, D.C.; 1 to 3 inches in Philadelphia; 2 to 4 inches in New York City; 4 to 7 inches in Hartford; and 3 to 6 inches in Boston.

Temperatures will be mild -- just near freezing -- so most major roads will be wet.

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Grandmother reports grandson for school shooting plot in Washington state

KOMO-TV(EVERETT, Wash.) -- A grandmother in Washington state is being credited with reporting her own grandson for planning a school shooting. The teen was arrested the same day as a former student killed 17 people in a shooting at a Florida school.

ABC News obtained a 911 call from a grandmother alerting police that her grandson, who was arrested Wednesday, was in the advanced stages of plotting a shooting at his high school.

“What I’m reporting is I’m finding journal entries from my grandson,” Catherine O’Connor told the operator. “And he’s planning on having a mass shooting at one of the high schools.”

O’Connor’s 18-year-old grandson, who has not been identified by police, was a student at ACES High School in Everett, Washington.

ABC's Seattle affiliate KOMO-TV obtained court documents detailing his violent journal entries.

 "I need to get the biggest fatality number I possibly can. I need to make this count,” the student wrote, according to the court documents, adding, "I'm learning from past shooters/bombers mistakes, so I don't make the same ones."

The grandmother called police when she discovered her grandson’s journal as well as a semi-automatic rifle stored in a guitar case in her home, according to court records.

Another journal entry stated, "I'm preparing myself for the school shooting. I can't wait. My aim has gotten much more accurate."

His journal also had excerpts about making pressure-cooker bombs.

The teen had considered targeting more than one high school, according to one of his journal entries. Everett police arrested the grandson at ACES High School on Wednesday. KOMO-TV reported he was in possession of marijuana and a knife at the time of his arrest, and was booked for third-degree assault on an officer for kicking him during his arrest.

He is being held on $5 million bail at Snohomish County Jail. Police are still investigating the teen for attempted murder based on his journals.

“There's a lot of kids who could have lost their lives,” O’Connor’s neighbor Julie Primachik told KOMO-TV. “I think it’s a hero-like thing to do.”

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Twin brothers arrested in NYC on explosives charges after authorities find bomb-making materials

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Twin brothers have been arrested in New York City on explosives charges for making a bomb, multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News.

The two arrests were made in The Bronx, the sources aid. Investigators recovered bomb-making materials as part of the investigation.

Christian and Tyler Toro were arrested in a joint counter-terrorism operation involving the FBI and the NYPD. The charges do not allege terror-related offenses only the explosives-related counts.

Christian Toro, a former teacher in The Bronx, is charged with his brother Tyler Toro with explosives-related charges. Court records said the brothers were paying minors to strip fireworks of their gunpowder so they could build a bomb.

Christian Toro and Tyler Toro "knowingly made firearms" and aided and abetted in the making of firearms at their home in the Bronx from about October 2017 to February of this year, according to a criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of New York.

Christian Toro is also accused of distributing explosive materials to two individuals under the age of 21 in the Bronx, according to the complaint.

On Dec. 4, 2017, a student was arrested after a bomb threat was called into a high school in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood, and Christian Toro resigned from his teaching position shortly after the arrest, the complaint states.

After the resignation, Tyler Toro returned Christian Toro's school-issued laptop, where a technical specialist found a copy of the "Explosives Book," a text that provides instructions for manufacturing explosive devices, according to the complaint.

On Feb. 8 of this year, multiple law enforcement agents interviewed Christian Toro, who stated that he "had not intentionally downloaded" the incriminating book into the laptop. Instead, Christian Toro stated that he had been researching the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and had come across a copy of the book.

Christian Toro also told investigators that he never built a bomb and had only looked at the book's table of contents.

On Wednesday, investigators interviewed multiple students at the school, who indicated that at least two students visited an apartment where Christian Toro would pay them $50 per hour to break apart fireworks and store the powder that came out of them in containers, the court document states. The students visited the apartment between October 2017 and January 2018, according to the complaint.

While serving a search warrant for the Bronx apartment, investigators found about 20 pounds of iron oxide, about 5 pounds of aluminum powder, about 5 pounds of potassium nitrate and about 2 pounds of confectioner's sugar located in the floor of a bedroom closet.

A glass jar containing a black powdery substance, later identified as explosive material, was also found on top of the closet shelf, the court document states. Another closet contained a cardboard box containing firecrackers, more containers full of varying substances and a bag containing varying sizes of metal spheres.

A diary containing writing that stated that it it were lost it should be returned to Tyler Toro was located on the kitchen table as well.

"WE ARE TWIN TOROS STRIKE US NOW, WE WILL RETURN WITH NANO THERMITE" the diary read, according to the complaint.

Both brothers occupy the back bedroom where several of the items were found, authorities said. They made an initial appearance in court, where a judge ordered them to be held with no objection from their defense attorneys.

Attorneys for the brothers were not immediately available for comment.

There is no current or active threat, according to law enforcement.

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Survivors of Florida high school shooting call for action on gun control

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(PARKLAND, Fla.) -- In interviews and tweets during and after the shooting at a high school in Florida on Wednesday students and teachers that experienced the horrible event firsthand called on Congress to enact stricter gun control laws to prevent it from happening again.

A former student shot and killed 17 people, including students, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday afternoon. More than a dozen more people were injured. The FBI is now investigating whether the shooter previously threatened to commit a school shooting in social media posts.

The superintendent of the school district Robert Runcie said in a press conference Thursday "our students are asking for that conversation and I hope we can get it done in this generation but if we don't, they will."

A senior at the school, David Hogg, said people should not get normalize mass shooting incidents like this because it will only happen again.

“This is a time for our country to take a look in the mirror and realize there is a serious issue here," he told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopolous on "Good Morning America" on Thursday.

Hogg said that none of his friends were hurt in the shooting but that two of his sister's best friends, who is a freshman at the school, were shot and killed. He works as a student reporter and interviewed some of his classmates while they were hiding in a classroom during the shooting, according to video obtained by verification site Storyful.

"I really don't think there's anything new to say but there shouldn't have to be because if you looked around this closet and saw everyone just hiding together you would know that this shouldn't be happening anymore and that it doesn't have to happen to anyone and that no amount of money should make it more accessible to have guns," a female student identified by the Florida Sun Sentinel as Isabelle Robinson tells Hogg in a video posted on YouTube.

Another student Hogg interviewed said she previously rallied for gun rights and planned to join the NRA and learn to hunt when she turned 18 but that the experience was so traumatizing she couldn't fathom even letting a gun into her house.

"It's definitely eye opening to the fact that we need more gun control in our country because for this to happen and for people to be so neutralized to it, I even texted my sisters "shooting at my school. I am safe." They both responded with "OMG. LOL, you're funny" Now that's a problem in society and its a bigger problem in America and it needs to be fixed and I think the most definite way to fix it is by changing our laws when it comes to gun ownership," she said in the video. Her name was unclear in the audio.

On Twitter another student, Sarah Chadwick, called for action in response to President Trump's tweet offering prayers and saying "No child, teacher or anyone should ever feel unsafe in an American school." She tweeted "my friends and teachers were shot. Multiple of my classmates are dead. Do something instead of sending prayers. Prayers won't fix this. But Gun Control will prevent it from happening again."

Her tweet received hundreds of thousands of retweets. The account has since been made private.

Gun control legislation proposed in the wake of other mass shootings, most recently a bill that would restrict the kind of bump stocks used in the Las Vegas shooting, have not moved forward in Congress.

A teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School said on MSNBC that the students and teachers were well prepared for an active shooter situation but that still didn't prevent 17 people from being shot and killed.

"They knew what to do, we knew what to do and even still, even with that we still have 17 casualties 17 people that aren't going to return to their families. And that's totally unacceptable," Melissa Falkowski said in an interview with Rachel Maddow on Wednesday night. "So from my personal viewpoint its time for Congress, government, somebody to do something and its time to talk about what the problem is and try to fix it."

In previous mass shootings activists or lawmakers seeking more strict gun control policies have criticized other elected officials for saying that the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting was not the appropriate time to talk about gun policies.

President Trump said Friday that he will be meeting with governors in the next month to discuss making schools safer but did not mention gun laws, but did say and tweet Friday morning about the mental health of the shooter.

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What we know about the alleged Florida school shooter

Broward County Sheriff(PARKLAND, Fla.) -- Authorities are still digging for clues to why a Florida teen allegedly opened fire at his former high school on Wednesday, killing 17 people.

Family members, classmates and former friends described suspect Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student, as a troubled teen who was largely alone in the world when he allegedly stormed through the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, carrying an AR-15 rifle and multiple magazines.

He was able to leave the school after the shooting by blending in with other students who were trying to escape, but he was apprehended shortly thereafter. He has been answering questions from investigators working on the case.

Some questions about Cruz’s possible ties to a hate group are under investigation, according to Broward County sheriff Scott Israel.

“It’s not confirmed at this time. We’re looking into that,” Israel said.

The Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights watchdog group, reported earlier today that they have information they believe to be credible linking Cruz to a white supremacist group called Republic of Florida. They reported that the group’s leader, Jordan Jereb, confirmed that Cruz had attended one or more training exercises run by ROF.

Another group that monitors hate groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center, released a statement to ABC News saying that "we cannot confirm the link between Cruz and the ROF," and raised questions about motives, saying the group seeks publicity.

What is known about Cruz’s background is family life mired in tragedy. Cruz was adopted as an infant, but he had been living with the family of a classmate after the sudden death of his adoptive mother late last year. His adoptive father died in 2005.

In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, an attorney for the family that had taken Cruz in for the past few months said Cruz was “depressed” following his mother’s death but he had been going to therapy.

The family is still “shocked,” he said, that Cruz would allegedly engage in mass violence.

“They indicated they saw nothing like this coming,” Lewis said. “They never saw any anger, no bad feelings about the school.”

They were aware that Cruz was in possession of a military-style assault weapon, he said, which two law enforcement officials told ABC News was legally purchased by Cruz within the past year from a federally licensed dealer. They insisted that it be locked in a safe.

“He brought it into the home and it was in a locked gun safe,” Lewis said. “That was the condition when he came into their home that the gun was locked away.”

Cruz’s former classmates, however, were less surprised.

A student who told ABC News that he participated in Junior ROTC with Cruz described him as a “psycho.” Cruz was a well-known weapons enthusiast, the student said, who once tried to sell knives to a classmate.

Another student told ABC News that before Cruz was expelled from the school he was barred from carrying a backpack on campus. The classmate said the rule was put in place after the school found bullet casings in his bag after a fight with another student.

One student said Cruz even once threatened to “shoot up” the school.

"About a year ago I saw him upset in the morning," student Brent Black told ABC News. "And I was like, 'Yo, what’s wrong with you?' And he was like, 'Umm, don’t know.' And I was like, 'What’s up with you?' He's like, 'I swear to God I'll shoot up this school.' And then I was like, 'Watch what you’re saying around me,' and then I just left him after that. He came up to me later on the day and apologized for what he said."

On Thursday, the FBI issued a statement saying that it was alerted in 2017 to a threat on YouTube by someone who said, “I am going to be a school shooter.”

"In September 2017, the FBI received information about a comment made on a YouTube channel. The comment said, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” No other information was included in the comment which would indicate a particular time, location, or the true identity of the person who posted the comment. The FBI conducted database reviews and other checks, but was unable to further identify the person who posted the comment."

According to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, investigators have already found some “disturbing” content on social media that could have provided warning signs.

“We have already begun to dissect his websites and things on social media that he was on, and some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing,” Israel said.

The photos posted on an Instagram account law enforcement sources tell ABC News belongs to the suspected shooter shows a young man displaying an arsenal of weapons.

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