Florida ‘stand your ground’ shooter Michael Drejka says ‘I followed the law’

BILL HUTCHINSON

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ABC News

Florida ‘stand your ground’ shooter Michael Drejka says ‘I followed the law’originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

Breaking his silence in a jailhouse interview, the white Florida man charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in a dispute over a parking space says “I cleared every hurdle” of the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law.

Michael Drejka spoke for the first time since being arrested and charged in the July killing of Markeis McGlockton, who was gunned down in front of his girlfriend and children.

PHOTO: Michael Drejka is seen in an Aug. 13, 2018 photo provided by the Pinellas County, Fla., Sheriff's Office. (Pinellas County Sheriff's Office via AP)
PHOTO: Michael Drejka is seen in an Aug. 13, 2018 photo provided by the Pinellas County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
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Drejka, 48, invoked the “stand your ground” law, saying that he was in fear of his life after McGlockton shoved him to the ground when he came out of a convenience store in Clearwater, Florida, to find Drejka allegedly berating his girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, about parking in a handicap space.

“I followed the law the way I felt the law was supposed to be followed,” Drejka told WTSP-TV in Tampa Bay. “I cleared every hurdle that that law had put in front of me.”

Asked if he could go back and change anything he did that fateful day, Drejka said, “No, [not] off the top of my head.”

On July 19, Drejka spotted Jacobs sitting in her car parked in a handicap spot outside the Circle A convenience store in Clearwater waiting for McGlockton, the father of her three children, to come out.

PHOTO: In this July 19, 2018, image taken from surveillance video released by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, Markeis McGlockton, far left, is shot by Michael Drejka during an altercation in the parking lot of a convenience store in Clearwater, Fla. (Pinellas County Sheriff's Office via AP)
PHOTO: In this July 19, 2018, image taken from surveillance video released by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Markeis McGlockton, far left, is shot by Michael Drejka during an altercation in the parking lot of a convenience store in Clearwater, Fla. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
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He said he confronted Jacobs because he has a “pet peeve” about seeing people illegally parked in spots reserved for the disabled.

Drejka said he once had a childhood sweetheart who was disabled in a car crash when she was 16, and that his mother-in-law is disabled.

“I always said, my whole life is always looking for a handicapped parking spot,” Drejka said in the interview conducted Friday at the Pinellas County Jail, where he is being held on $100,000 bail. “And it just always touched a nerve with me.”

Investigators said Drejka, who is not disabled, was alone on the day of the shooting.

He denied that the episode with Jacobs and McGlockton had anything to do with race, and said it was “totally false” that he used racial slurs in the encounter with Jacobs or anyone else.

Drejka refuted allegations by attorneys for Jacobs and the McGlockton family that he is a racist.

“No sir, not by any means,” he said. “I’ve worked with too many people, I’ve met too many people in my life to be that kind of person. There’s no way to survive really by being like that.”

PHOTO: Britany Jacobs, 25, her 5-year-old son Markeis McGlockton Jr., and their cousin Mesha Gilbert, 26, during a vigil for Markeis McGlockton Sr., 28, at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla., July 22, 2018. (Octavio Jones/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
PHOTO: Britany Jacobs, 25, her 5-year-old son Markeis McGlockton Jr., and their cousin Mesha Gilbert, 26, during a vigil for Markeis McGlockton Sr., 28, at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla., July 22, 2018. (Octavio Jones/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
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Surveillance video taken from in front of the Circle A store showed McGlockton, 28, getting between Drejka and Jacobs, and shoving Drejka to the ground. Drejka, who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, is seen in the footage pulling a .40-caliber Glock handgun while he was still on the ground and firing it at McGlockton, who appeared to be retreating.

The video shows McGlockton being shot once in the left side. Jacobs said she and McGlockton’s 5-year-old son witnessed the shooting.

McGlockton stumbled back in the store mortally wounded and later died at a hospital.

Drejka said he feared for his life when McGlockton “tackled” him to the ground.

“There was only one way to look at that. You have to be scared … because if you’re not and you’re wrong you know … that’s that,” he said. “So, yeah very scared having never been confronted like that or never been assaulted like that if you will.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri initially declined to arrest Drejka after the gunman invoked the “stand your ground” defense, saying his decision was bound by the law.

Drejka said he felt “vindicated” by Gualtieri’s decision, even as protests broke out in Clearwater and across the nation over the shooting.

“I’m a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights and the fact that everybody deserves to feel secure in their person no matter where they go or what they’re doing as long as they’re there legally, of course,” he said. “So yeah, I guess you can say I’m a big supporter of the Second Amendment. I suppose not overtly outspoken about it, but in my heart.”

When asked if he could say anything to McGlockton’s loved ones, he initially declined. But later in the interview, he said, “I’m sorry, that’s all I can really say to them.”

PHOTO: Britany Jacobs, 25, her 5-year-old son Markeis McGlockton Jr., and their cousin Mesha Gilbert, 26, during a vigil for Markeis McGlockton Sr., 28, at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla., July 22, 2018. (Octavio Jones/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
PHOTO: Britany Jacobs, 25, her 5-year-old son Markeis McGlockton Jr., and their cousin Mesha Gilbert, 26, during a vigil for Markeis McGlockton Sr., 28, at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla., July 22, 2018. (Octavio Jones/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
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“And thinking about it, would you accept those kinds of words from someone? I don’t think I would,” he said.

(MORE: Florida ‘stand your ground’ shooter Michael Drejka charged with manslaughter)

He said he was surprised when Pinellas County State Attorney Bernie McCabe filed a manslaughter charge against him on Aug. 13. Drejka denied that he voluntarily turned himself in.

(MORE: Florida ‘stand your ground’ shooter had history of gun threats: Complaint)

“They lied to me,” he said of the detective who arrested him. “And under the guise of returning my property, he requested me to show up at the sheriff’s office to talk to the original detectives.”

The only time in the interview that Drejka showed emotion was when he spoke of his wife and children, who he claims have been facing death threats and eviction from their rented home.

“I miss my girl. I miss my girls. All of them, yeah,” he said crying.

(MORE: ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws under scrutiny again after man gunned down in parking lot)

Attorneys for Jacobs and the McGlockton family could not be reached for comment on Sunday. They have previously praised McCabe for filing charges against Drejka while criticizing Sheriff Gualtieri for not arresting Drejka immediately.

“I support the state attorney’s decision and will have no further comment as the case continues to work its way through the criminal justice system,” Gualtieri said in a statement after Drejka was charged with manslaughter.

Jacobs’ attorney, Benjamin Crump, has called Drejka a “self-appointed wannabe cop” who attempted to “hide behind ‘stand your ground’ to defend his indefensible actions.”

“I have full faith that this truth will prevail to punish this cold-blooded killer who angrily created the altercation that led to Markeis’ needless death,” Crump said the day Drejka was charged. “We will continue to fight until justice is brought for the family of Markeis McGlockton.”

Drejka has plead not guilty to the charge and has a pre-trial hearing scheduled for Oct. 19.

COURTESY: YAHOO

Tropical Storm Gordon threatens Gulf Coast, hurricane warning in place

After Tropical Storm Gordon drenched parts of South Florida on Monday, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning for parts of the Gulf Coast — where the storm is expected to roar ashore as soon as late Tuesday.

Meteorologists have warned Gordon likely will strengthen into a hurricane by the time it reaches coastal Mississippi and Louisiana.

Voluntary evacuation orders were issued on Monday for parts of Louisiana for residents in areas outside the levee protection system. Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Monday and said 200 National Guard troops will be deployed to southeastern Louisiana.

The National Hurricane Center said at 8 p.m. ET that the storm was centered 95 miles west of Fort Myers, Florida. Maximum sustained winds were clocked at 60 mph. After making landfall, it is expected to charge inland over the lower Mississippi Valley on Wednesday.

The hurricane warning was placed into effect for the area stretching from the mouth of the Pearl River in Mississippi to the Alabama-Florida border. As much as 8 inches of rain could fall in some parts of the Gulf states through late Thursday.

The National Hurricane Center reported that the storm could unleash “life-threatening” storm surge to portions of the central Gulf Coast. A storm surge warning has been issued for the area stretching from Shell Beach, Louisiana, to Dauphin Island, Alabama. The warning means there is danger of life-threatening inundation. The region could see rising waters of 3 to 5 feet.

“The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the east of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large waves,” the center said.

Gordon is expected to dissipate by Saturday somewhere in the central U.S.

After periods of heavy rainfall, flood advisories were in effect for parts of South Florida late Monday.

Tropical Storm Gordon is the Atlantic basin’s seventh named storm of the year.

Fox News’ Caleb Parke and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Paulina Dedaj is a writer/ reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @PaulinaDedaj.

COURTESY: FOX NEWS

Multiple fatalities reported, including a suspect, in mass shooting at Jacksonville, Fla., video game tournament

Multiple fatalities reported, including a suspect, in mass shooting at Jacksonville, Fla., video game tournament
  (Len De Groot / Los Angeles Times)

 

Multiple people were killed, including a suspect, after a shooter opened fire during a video game tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., according to witnesses and police.

The shooting was partially captured on a livestream of the Madden NFL gaming tournament at the Jacksonville Landing. Gaming has become increasingly professionalized in recent years, with gamers taking on public personas similar to professional athletes, and such events are often followed on video and via social media.

The shooter was a gamer who was competing in the tournament and lost, according to Steven “Steveyj” Javaruski, one of the competitors.

The shooter “targeted a few people” and shot at least five victims before killing himself, Javaruski told The Times in a direct message on Twitter. The gunman killed two or three people “that I saw,” Javaruski said.

In a public tweet, he added that he was escorted out by police after the shooting.

“I am literally so lucky,” gamer Drini Gjoka said in a tweet. “The bullet hit my thumb.”

He added: “Worst day of my life.”

Authorities say they are unsure if there is a second suspect, and are urging the public to stay away from the area.

Sources told News4Jax, a Jacksonville broadcast station, that at least four people had been fatally shot, and 11 total. CNN reported that the shooting occurred at a Madden NFL video game tournament.

This post will be updated as more information becomes available.

12:07 p.m.: This story has been updated with staff reporting on more details about the shooting.

11:58 a.m.: This story has been updated with a suspect dead at the scene.

11:48 a.m.: This story has been updated with a report of multiple fatalities.

This story originally published at 11:15 a.m.

March for Our Lives: Huge crowds gather for rally against gun violence in nation’s capital

Watch live: March for Our Lives

Live coverage and analysis from the March for Our Lives, an event organized by survivors of the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. 

 March 24 at 12:00 PM 
Students, teachers, parents and survivors of mass shootings streamed into Washington Saturday for the March for Our Lives, a demonstration against gun violence that could draw hundreds of thousands of protesters to the nation’s capital.

The march is part of a surge of political activism that has transformed the nation’s entrenched debate over gun violence. It was organized by students who survived the mass shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who hope to succeed where many adults have failed: In forcing Congress to pass a comprehensive gun-control bill that will improve school safety.

Hundreds of sister protests are taking place in cities across the United States, including Philadelphia, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The main demonstration in Washington is scheduled to run from noon to 3 p.m. on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Many crowded into downtown early Saturday morning to stake out places at what promises to be less a march than a standing-room-only rally, with 20 speakers — all of them under 18 years old — and performances by celebrities including Ariana Grande, Common, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Hudson, Vic Mensa, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt.

Authorities in the nation’s capital said they were taking extra security precautions, in part because many of the protesters are expected to be teenagers.

“To be honest, I’m scared to march,” Stoneman Douglas High senior Carly Novell said in a Saturday morning tweet, citing the risk that a shooter might terrorize those gathered to protest on Pennsylvania Avenue. “This is a march against gun violence, and I am scared there will be gun violence on the march. This is just my mindset living in this country now, but this is why we need to march.”

Callie Stone, 18, was walking down Pennsylvania Avenue wearing a denim jacket with “Nasty Woman” emblazoned on it, a term President Trump used against Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election and that progressive women adopted as a moniker.

With Stone was her mother, whom she had told the previous day that she wasn’t sure she wanted to raise children in a world where students fear going to school. “But I said, ‘Look at you, at your generation — you all are bringing us hope,’” Kelly Stone, 54, said.

Kelly Stone was a middle-school student in Canada in 1975 when a gunman killed two people and himself at Brampton Centennial Secondary School, which she went on to attend. She said that incident has cast a long shadow over her life and that of her daughter.

Nearly 200 people have died in school shootings since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, which left 13 dead and inaugurated a relentless, two-decade stretch of campus gun violence. During that period, more than 187,000 students attending at least 193 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus during school hours, according to a Washington Post analysis.

“We’ve grown up knowing this could happen to us,” Callie Stone said.

 1:23
Getting around D.C. during March for Our Lives

As many as 500,000 people are expected to attend March for Our Lives in downtown D.C. on March 24.

Just five days ago, 16-year-old Jaelynn Willey was fatally shot at Great Mills High School in southern Maryland by a 17-year-old former boyfriend, who died as well. One other boy was injured in the gunfire. Willey was taken off life support two days ago.

For the roughly 100 students, alumni and parents from Great Mills High emerged from the escalator at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station on Saturday, the march had a raw immediacy.

“We are!” Emerson Schaeffer, 20, shouted into a megaphone.

“Great Mills!” cheered the crowd, decked out in their school colors, forest green and gold.

Schaeffer said he and friends had been thinking about attending the march even before the shooting. “Then this happened,” he said, “and we said ‘Yep, we’re going.’ ”

The White House issued a statement Saturday praising the participants in the marches, though they are calling for tougher gun-control measures than President Trump supports.

“We applaud the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in the statement, in which she added that “keeping our children safe is a stop priority of the President’s.”

The president himself was in Florida at Trump International Golf Club, located about 35 miles from Parkland.

The Department of Homeland Security, working with D.C. police and the mayor’s office, has set up a system to notify demonstrators of warnings or detours. (Text “March 24” to 888-777 to sign up.) Those entering the main march area have to pass through security check points.

Medical tents staffed by volunteers line the march route, doubling as gathering points where people can find each other if accidentally separated. Water is being made available to protesters and food trucks would be nearby, organizers said.

“As the young men and women from Parkland, Florida, have been preparing for Saturday’s event, the District has been preparing to keep them safe here in Washington,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said this week.

Bowser and other city officials held a pre-march rally at Folger Park Saturday morning, intended to highlight the effects of gun violence on children in the District.

Among the hundreds pouring into the park ahead of time were three students at National Collegiate Prep High School — a charter school in Southeast Washington — who lamented that gun violence in the poorest and mostly African American neighborhoods of the nation’s capital doesn’t command the same national publicity as that in Florida.

“As soon as stuff happened in Florida, everyone wanted to do something,” said Nevaeh Williams, a 16-year-old sophomore who lives in Anacostia. “But every week someone gets shot in D.C.” Williams’s cousin was shot four years ago. A classmate, Zoruan Harris, the quarterback for the football team, was fatally shot in 2016.

Although America’s most famous school massacres have happened at mostly white schools in suburbs or small towns, children of color are at far greater risk of gun violence at school, the Post analysis found. Hispanic students are twice as likely as white students to experience a school shooting, and black students three times as likely.

“When it happens in a school in a nice neighborhood, it’s shown nationwide. But we don’t get that attention,” said Danielle Perkins, a 16-year-old junior whose stepbrother and friend’s older brother were shot in recent months.

More than 800 events were scheduled to take place around the world Saturday, according to March for Our Lives organizers. Beyond major cities, they will include demonstrations in Las Vegas, where a gunman killed 58 people at a country music festival last year; in Parkland, Fla., home to Stoneman Douglas High; and in Jonesboro, Ark., where the community is marking the 20th anniversary of a middle-school shooting that left four students and a teacher dead.

Survivors or relatives of those killed in other mass shootings are also expected to attend the march in Washington, including some from Columbine; Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 first-graders and six adults were shot dead in 2012; and Marysville Pilchuck High School in Washington state, where four were fatally shot in 2014.

Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, said he is attending the march as a representative of the Pulse victims, including his friend Christopher “Drew” Leinonen and Leinonen’s boyfriend, Juan Guerrero.

“I don’t think this conversation is just about schools,” Wolf said. “It’s about: The current generation is fed up with lawmakers who have done nothing on this issue regardless of which community has been affected. Students, LGBT people, people of color. This issue is intersectional.”

Marches and rallies that force survivors to relive those horrible moments can trigger strong emotional reactions, Wolf said. Several organizations will be available to assist survivors of violent crimes and rally participants who need support.

“It’s so important to remember that while these teenagers are giving us hope and inspiring us and we want to rest everything we have on their shoulders, they’re also kids who have been through something horrific,” Wolf said. “Something they will never forget.”

Counterprotests by gun rights supporters are also expected in cities including Boston, Boise, Salt Lake City and Valparaiso, Ind.

Florida students call for gun control: ‘Without action, children die’

After 17 of their classmates and coaches were killed, the teens at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are making their voices heard. They want politicians to finally start taking action.

USA Anti-Waffen-Demonstration in Fort Lauderdale (Reuters/J. Drake)

The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, Florida, have lived through a nightmare. On Wednesday, February 14, a gunman opened fire at their school, killing 17 people. The teens who survived were witness to classmates and teachers being shot. Now some of the survivors are taking action.

They are using their personal experience to try to convince politicians to pass gun control measures and to call out those who are unwilling to discuss the issue.

To the politicians saying this isn’t about guns, and that we shouldn’t be discussing this rn:

We were literally being shot at while trying to gain an education. So this is about guns. You weren’t in the school while this was happening. We were, and we’re demanding change.

The Valentine’s Day shooting in Parkland was the 18th shooting at an educational institution in the US in 2018. The number includes suicides and incidents where no one was injured.

The fact that shootings happen so frequently is making many Americans angry at their government and the National Rifle Association (NRA) for creating an environment in which even the smallest gun control proposals come up against fierce resistance. At an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday, MSD student Emma Gonzalez gave voice to the anger she and her classmates felt.

“If all our government and our president can do is send ‘thoughts and prayers,’ then it’s time for victims to be the change we need to see,” Gonzalez said. “We, we are going to be the kids that you read about in textbooks…We are going to be the last mass shooting.”

‘This shouldn’t be happening anymore’

One MSD student named Carly emphasized on Twitter that guns should be at the center of the discussion about what happened at her school. Carly’s tweet came as a reply to conservative talk show host Tomi Lahren, who had tweeted that the Left was trying to “push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda.”

I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns. https://twitter.com/tomilahren/status/963978544295505922 

“Blood is being spilled on the floors of American classrooms and that is not acceptable,” MSD senior David Hogg told the Washington Post.

Hogg and a group of students ended up hiding in a closet during the shooting, where Hogg started interviewing his classmates and taping their opinions on gun control with his phone. He said he didn’t know whether anyone in the closet would survive, but that he hoped his footage would spur action if it was found.

One of the students Hogg recorded is Isabelle Robinson.

“I really don’t think there’s anything new to say, but there shouldn’t have to be,” Robinson said in the video. “If you looked around in this closet and saw everyone just hiding together, you would know that this shouldn’t be happening anymore.”

Watch video02:12

Florida shooting survivors call for tougher gun laws

In an interview with CNN, Hogg said he believed there was something seriously wrong with his country.

“Some of our policy makers, they need to look in the mirror and take some action,” Hogg said. “Because ideas are great, but without action, ideas stay ideas and children die.”

The voice of their generation

Sergio Rozenblat, the father of a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said on TV channel MSNBC that he wished someone “would film these kids and then show it to the politicians with their speeches, their empty speeches.”

In the days of smartphones and social media, however, no one needs to film the students – they are making sure that pundits are not just talking about them, but that they, the survivors, are part of the conversation.

MSD student Kyra wrote on Twitter that she and her classmates were going to be “the voice of this generation” despite their grief. They were going to make their voices heard, she said.

despite having our hearts ripped out of our chests. Despite losing our friends and coaches. Despite living through a nightmare. As students of Douglas, we are the voice of this generation. And I’ll be damned if anyone thinks they can silence us.

With 14 students and three faculty members dead, the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school is among the deadliest school shootings in modern US history. In 1999, two students at Columbine High School in Colorado took the lives of 13 people before killing themselves. In 2012, a shooter killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut before fatally shooting himself in the head.

MSD students are old enough to remember the Sandy Hook massacre. One student named Isabel pointed out on Twitter that because gun control wasn’t tightened after Sandy Hook, she and her fellow MSD students are now “left traumatized.”

in sixth grade, i made paper snowflakes and wrote messages on them for the children of sandy hook. today, in 11th grade, i am left traumatized. because to politicians, guns are more important than the lives of my classmates.

But this time, maybe things will change. The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas are old enough to voice their opinions, organize and put a lot of pressure on politicians. They have technology at their fingertips to make themselves heard, that the victims of the Columbine massacre, for example, didn’t have. And they are determined to fight the powerful gun lobby in the United States and get tougher laws on who can buy firearms, so that no other students will have to experience what they went through.

COURTESY: DW

After the tragedy in Florida, Trump struggles to show his empathetic side

After the tragedy in Florida, Trump struggles to show his empathetic side
President Trump pauses Thursday before speaking about the mass shooting at a Florida high school. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

 

There was a moment in President Trump’s speech Thursday about the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., when his voice seemed to catch for just a moment as he conjured up a picture of parents kissing their children goodbye, sending them off to school for the last time.

“Each person who was stolen from us yesterday had a full life ahead of them,” he said, his voice faltering for a split-second, “a life filled with wondrous beauty and unlimited potential and promise.”

Given Trump’s otherwise stoic air, it was unclear whether he was stumbling over the words on his teleprompter or displaying emotion. His shoulders slumped heavily as he walked away from the podium, but that may have reflected the uncomfortable questions about gun control that reporters were shouting at him at the time.

Either way, the moment was notable mainly for its low-key nature, by contrast with Trump’s public response to other crises. His emotions run conspicuously high when he is angry or indignant — which has often been the case with crimes in which the alleged perpetrator comes from another country.

Every new president requires time to ease into the role of helping the nation through joys and sorrows. Whether in triumph or tragedy, the country has a need for displays of sensitivity and strength from its elected leader. No prior role serves as proper preparation, according to those who have watched previous presidents grapple with the challenge.

Trump struggles more than most to display responses other than presidential anger and outrage.

“The country needs the president to lead them through that dark moment,” said Joshua DuBois, a Pentecostal minister who advised President Obama through many crises. “But before we can do that, we need to know the president understands.”

“In a moment like this,” he said, “a president has to be willing to let his heart break.”

That ability has led to memorable moments of presidential leadership in the past: Ronald Reagan promising that Americans would never forget the Challenger astronauts nor the last glimpse of them as they “slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God”; President George W. Bush climbing atop the rubble of the Sept. 11 attacks with a bullhorn; President Obama weeping over the death of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary School and singing “Amazing Grace” with survivors of a church massacre in Charleston, S.C.

Each of them, however, had rocky early days. Obama came off as aloof. Reagan could be stiff as both of the presidents Bush could be awkward.

Trump, by contrast, often barges in with guns blazing. When an Uzbek man was named as the suspect in the killing of eight people on a New York City bicycle path, Trump fired back with promises of a major crackdown on immigration. Two days after the terror attack in San Bernardino, he threatened a response to terrorists so tough it would get him “in trouble.”

Survivors say that bombastic responses aren’t helpful. They’d rather see the president come to town, pay tribute to victims and offer hope that things will get better.

Obama did that in tragedy after tragedy. Still, it was a piercing wound to some in Oak Creek, Wis., when he failed to visit a Sikh gurdwara immediately after a white supremacist massacred worshipers there. The Obama team’s response was otherwise strong, Sikh activist Valarie Kaur said at the time, but the president failed in the role only the chief executive can play.

“After the attack we endured, Sikh Americans, and all brown and black people in America for that matter, need our president to directly show the nation that we belong here,” she wrote.

Trump’s White House has started to get a stronger feel for how details of the president’s schedule are perceived in the wake of a tragedy. The White House shut down public appearances in the immediate aftermath of the Parkland shooting and canceled a Friday trip to Orlando. Trump’s political operation said he would also cancel a campaign trip to Pennsylvania that would likely have coincided with funerals in Florida.

In putting the president’s Thursday address together, his speech writing team crafted a message of sympathy that focused on the victims and survivors. It hit the same notes as previous presidents in promising federal support for state and local officials dealing with the aftermath.

The address angered some listeners who hoped that the deaths of schoolchildren might inspire Trump to consider changes to the nation’s gun laws. The gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mowed down 17 people with a semiautomatic AR-15, the same kind of gun used to kill 20 first-graders at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. In the six years since that massacre, there have been at least 239 shootings at schools across the country, wounding 438 people and taking the lives of 138.

As little as Trump reveals a softer side to the public, the few times he has done so have involved children. When he declared the opioid crisis to be a public health emergency, he spoke tenderly of the “beautiful, beautiful babies” he wanted to protect. “No child of God should ever suffer such horror,” he said of Syrian children suffering a chemical attack by forces loyal to the country’s leader, Bashar Assad.

“To every parent, teacher and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you — whatever you need, whatever we can do, to ease your pain,” he said in his remarks Thursday. “We are all joined together as one American family, and your suffering is our burden also.”

Those words were appropriate, said DuBois, but still fell short.

“I do not sense vulnerability from him, and I did not hear real solutions,” he said. “That’s the barrier I believe he’ll have to overcome.”

Twitter: @cparsons

Courtesy: L A Times

Plenty of warnings in Florida school shooting suspect’s past, but ‘we missed the signs’

Special Report: Florida investigators update on deadly school shooting
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Former classmates of the suspect in Wednesday’s deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school say they weren’t surprised to discover he was the alleged gunman, but a Broward County commissioner admits officials “missed the signs.”

“I can’t say I was shocked,” Joshua Charo, a 16-year-old student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., told the Miami Herald. “From past experiences, he seemed like the kind of kid who would do something like this.”

“I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him,” Dakota Mutchler, a 17-year-old junior at the school, told the Associated Press.

“A lot of people were saying it was going to be him,” Eddie Bonilla, another student, told CBS Miami. “A lot of kids joked around like that, saying that he was going to be the one to shoot up the school. But it turns out everyone predicted it.”

Police say the 19-year-old suspect, Nikolas Cruz, killed 17 people and wounded at least a dozen others in the rampage. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters that Cruz had been expelled from the school for “disciplinary reasons.” Israel said that an “AR-15-style weapon” and “countless magazines” were recovered at the scene. According to the Associated Press, Cruz purchased the weapon legally about a year ago.

“All he would talk about is guns, knives and hunting,” Charo said. “He used to tell me he would shoot rats with his BB gun and he wanted this kind of gun, and how he liked to always shoot for practice.”

Mutchler said Cruz often boasted on Instagram about killing animals and that “he started progressively getting a little more weird.”

“He was that weird kid that you see,” Daniel Huerfano, another former classmate, told the AP. “Like a loner.”

Nikolas Cruz’s booking photo. (Photo: Broward County Jail via AP)
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On Thursday, President Trump seemed to suggest that the community failed to report the warning signs to authorities.

“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior,” the president tweeted. “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

Broward County Commissioner Beam Furr admitted as much in an interview with NPR.

“We missed the signs,” Furr said. “We should have seen some of the signs.”

Furr told CNN that Cruz had been receiving treatment at a mental health clinic, but stopped going about a year ago.

“It wasn’t like there wasn’t concern for him,” Furr said. “We try to keep our eyes out on those kids who aren’t connected.”

Parents wait for news after reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday. (Photo: Joel Auerbach/AP)
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“Most teachers try to steer them toward some kind of connections,” he added. “In this case, we didn’t find a way to connect with this kid.”

Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that he did not know of any threats posed by Cruz to the school.

“Typically you see in these situations that there potentially could have been signs out there,” Runcie said. “I would be speculating at this point if there were, but we didn’t have any warnings. There weren’t any phone calls or threats that we know of that were made.”

But Jim Gard, a math teacher at the school, told the Miami Herald that administrators had identified Cruz as a potential threat.

Gard remembered that the school administration had previously sent out an email warning teachers about Cruz.

“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” Gard said. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”

Israel said that investigators reviewing Cruz’s social media accounts found “disturbing” images of him brandishing weapons.

Police evacuate students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday. (Photo: Mike Stocker/ South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
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At a press conference on Thursday morning, Israel urged the public to report changes in behavior to law enforcement.

“Don’t think about it. Call us,” Israel said. “If there’s something in your gut that tells you, ‘Something’s not right with this person — this person has the capabilities in my mind to do this or do that,’ please don’t remain silent.”

According to BuzzFeed, at least one person appears to have reported Cruz to authorities.

The site reports that in September, YouTube user Ben Bennight alerted the FBI that a commenter had posted an alarming remark on one of his videos.

“I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” wrote the commenter, named Nikolas Cruz.

According to Bennight, FBI agents conducted an in-person interview with him the following day.

“They came to my office the next morning and asked me if I knew anything about the person,” Bennight said. “I didn’t. They took a copy of the screenshot and that was the last I heard from them.”

View from inside Florida high school during attack

A chilling look inside a Florida high school as a shooter attacked on Wednesday, February 14.

Courtesy: Yahoo News

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