Florida high school requiring clear backpacks after shooting

PARKLAND, Fla. — Already heightened security was being bolstered Thursday at the Florida high school that became the scene of a massacre last month, with Gov. Rick Scott ordering eight highway patrol troopers to help secure the grounds. The move came after the shooting suspect’s brother was arrested on campus, two students were caught carrying knives and another made online threats.

Also, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students will be given clear backpacks they’ll be required to use when they return from spring break on April 2. Broward County school district Superintendent Robert Runcie told parents in a two-page letter that metal detectors also may be installed soon, and he outlined other security upgrades including student ID badges and a district-wide effort to require all school visitors to enter through a single door.

The troopers will be stationed at the school indefinitely along with Broward County deputies, leaving an armed guard at every campus entrance point, Scott said in a statement. Before the shooting, the school was patrolled by one armed deputy and unarmed guards. An unspecified number of deputies, some armed with rifles, were added after the school reopened.

“Parents, students and teachers have recently endured one of the worst tragedies in Florida history,” Scott said. “They must be assured that every necessary step is being taken to increase safety and ensure no unauthorized people are allowed on campus.”

The strengthened security comes three days after suspect Nikolas Cruz’s younger brother, Zachary Cruz, was arrested on trespassing charges while riding his skateboard on campus.

Zachary Cruz, 18, is being held on $500,000 bond and Broward County Judge Kim Theresa Mollica has approved a search of his home for weapons. The Broward Sheriff’s Office wants him barred from possessing firearms and also involuntarily hospitalized for a mental health evaluation under a state law passed after the Feb. 14 shooting spree that killed 17.

Zachary and Nikolas, 19, both attended Stoneman Douglas. They shared the same biological mother but had different fathers. Both were adopted at very young ages by Roger and Lynda Cruz. Lynda Cruz died in November and their father died some years earlier.

Nickolas Cruz’s attorney has said he will plead guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder if prosecutors will waive the death penalty, which they have refused to do.

Meanwhile, a judge rejected an attempt to remove Broward County prosecutors and its public defender from the Nikolas Cruz criminal case.

Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said in an order dated Wednesday that attorney Alex Arreaza lacks legal standing to make such a motion. Arreaza represents 15-year-old Anthony Borges, who was shot five times in the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people.

Arreaza had claimed the two offices have a conflict because both signed a 2016 agreement along with county school and law enforcement officials aimed at handling school disciplinary issues without involving law enforcement.

Mollica separately imposed a $12,500 bail Wednesday on a Stoneman Douglas student who officials say pulled a small knife on a boy she accused of harassing her and a friend. The SunSentinel reports that her lawyer, Brian Reidy said everyone has “hit the fear button” and that he doesn’t “blame a kid for taking a weapon to school, quite frankly, these days.”

Meanwhile, Florida residents won’t get a chance to vote this fall on adding gun control restrictions to the state constitution. A state panel on Wednesday rejected several proposed restrictions on procedural grounds. A majority of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission voted that the gun control measures were out of order and couldn’t be considered under commission rules. The commission is allowed to propose changes to the state constitution.

Elsewhere, several media organizations including The Associated Press asked a judge to determine if additional surveillance video from the school shooting should be released. Last week, the Broward Sheriff’s Office released a 27-minute video depicting ex-deputy Scot Peterson’s actions remaining outside the building where the shooting took place.

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