PARKLAND: A troubled teen has confessed to gunning down 17 people at his former high school in Florida, court documents showed on Thursday, as the FBI admitted it had received a tip-off about the 19-year-old gunman yet failed to stop him.

As Americans reeled from the country’s worst school massacre since the horror at Sandy Hook six years ago, President Donald Trump suggested the root cause of the violence was a crisis of mental health — and defied calls to address gun control.

Terrified students hid in closets and under desks on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, texting for help as the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, stalked the school with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle.

Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, appearing Thursday afternoon via video link before a judge who ordered him held without bond. More than a dozen other people were injured in the shooting spree.

“Today is a day of healing. Today is a day of mourning,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said.

After being read his legal rights, “Cruz stated that he was the gunman who entered the school campus armed with a AR-15 and began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on the school grounds,” court documents showed.

Cruz also admitted to police that he discarded his rifle — which he bought legally in Florida — and tactical gear in order to blend in with the crowd to flee the campus, the documents showed.

After the shooting, he stopped at a Wal-Mart and then McDonald’s, Israel told reporters. He was detained 40 minutes later, after police identified him using school security camera footage.

In a somber televised address to the nation in response to the 18th school shooting so far this year, Trump vowed to make mental health a priority — after tweeting about the “many signs” the gunman was “mentally disturbed” — while avoiding any talk of gun curbs.

Earlier in the day, Trump had asserted that “neighbours and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!” Expelled from school for disciplinary reasons, Cruz was known to be fixated on firearms — and had reportedly been identified as a potential threat to his classmates.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2018