ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
We're going to go now to NPR's Greg Allen, our reporter who's been covering this story from Miami.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
(Inaudible) it up from here. Hi, Greg.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.
KELLY: We - as you were just listening in there, we've been talking to parents about the situation. Can you give us a little bit of the big picture where things stand now with the situation at the high school?
ALLEN: Right, well, just to back up, this began today right toward the close of the day. Around 2:35, we had what - the gunshots began. Students thought they were actually hearing balloons popping at first. There had been a fire drill earlier that day, but people quickly realized it was not a drill. The school went on total lockdown. SWAT teams arrived. They started looking for the suspect. They did not find him on the campus of the school. They didn't find him until about an hour later some distance from the school. They arrested him then.
But students knew who the student - who the person was. He's been identified by the sheriff of Broward County as a former student, and many other students have identified him that way as well. So they knew who they were looking for. He was picked up. They've also taken him to a hospital as well. What we know at this point is that some 14 people were taken to hospitals. And we've heard, as we heard in that clip of tape from the superintendent of schools Robert Runcie, that there have been numerous fatalities. We just don't know what that means at this point - so very uncertain.
KELLY: OK, a few things you said that I want to follow up on - one, we've now got identification of the shooter and that this was a former student. Do we know how former? Do we know when he graduated or whether there was any motive that people are putting their fingers on at this point?
ALLEN: Well, we don't have a lot of information about this. We see - the Miami Herald has some information they've been reporting on this. He's been identified as a 20-year-old who had some history of being identified as a threat. The school - superintendent of schools Robert Runcie said that they can always do a better job at screening for these kinds of problems. But he did not suggest that he knew that the student was a threat himself, the superintendent of schools. So it's very uncertain about that. But that will all become clear in the next few hours.
KELLY: Right. A lot of questions...
KELLY: ...As this is still unfolding. I mean, the other thing that - big question hanging over this is how many people might have died and how many people might have been injured. Are we getting some sense of the scale, Greg?
ALLEN: Right, well, to go over that, we - this was called a Level 3 event, which meant - alerts hospitals to be prepared for emergency cases coming in. And the Level 3 suggests there could be 20 to 22 cases - what I've been told. What we heard from the sheriff is that there's 14 people that he knows of that have been transported to hospitals. And then we have just that information from the superintendent of numerous fatalities. But we don't really know what that means beyond that.
KELLY: And situation at the school now - is everybody out?
ALLEN: What we hear from the sheriff is that almost everyone is out. They're still - the SWAT teams are still going through to secure every classroom to make sure there's not anyone injured, no one's who's hiding is afraid to come out. So they still have not totally cleared the space, but they believe that all the students, you know, who are aware and awake are out.
KELLY: Greg, I know you were trying to track this for us from Miami. This is all just unfolding in the past several hours. But what can you tell us about Parkland itself and this school where all of this is taking place?
ALLEN: Well, you know, this is in Broward County up near Fort Lauderdale, a very nice, you know, part of Florida in terms of income. I think it's a mixed school, a large school - 3,000 kids. So I'm sure there's kids from all different walks of - you know, all different economic status there - but a suburban school, you know? And as we heard from the superintendent of schools, you know, it's something that he thought - a day that he hoped would never come. But it did come to them. It's now being considered the worst school shooting in Broward County. I'm not sure what to compare it to. But, you know, knowing that there's a fatality puts it into a class of its own.
KELLY: Yeah. I just got off the phone with - I was speaking with Ted Deutch, the congressman from the district. He was in Washington but checking in with people back in the district. He says he was just there. Security was great at the school, and nothing like this has ever happened in this community before. As you say, it's something you hope never will.
KELLY: NPR's Greg Allen - I'm sorry. Please go ahead.
ALLEN: Yeah, I was just saying we heard from the superintendent of schools that he feels that there's got to be something done for - on mental health issues here because that - he - and they - that they're pressing him on that issue. And he said, well, I can't say specifically this had to do with this shooter, but we just know in general that has to be an issue. So he suggests that that's something that they're going to have to be looking at in his school district.
KELLY: Thank you, Greg.
ALLEN: You're welcome.
KELLY: NPR's Greg Allen. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.