(ABC NEWS) A day after he allegedly opened fire at a Florida high school, suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz made his first court appearance Thursday afternoon.
Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
Public defender Melisa McNeil is currently representing Cruz and appeared with him in a brief court hearing.
McNeil called Cruz a "broken child" and added that "My children they fo to school in this community and I feel horrible for these families," and that "Mr. Cruz feels that pain."
Community members are still struggling to understand why the former student allegedly carried out the shooting Wednesday afternoon.
According to the Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, Cruz took an Uber to the school Wednesday.
Police said Cruz was allegedly able to slip away from the campus by blending in with other students who were trying to escape.
Authorities are focusing some attention on a McDonald's near the high school. Officials believe Cruz went to the restaurant either just before or just after the shooting and met or spoke with someone, two sources told ABC News, citing preliminary information. The person's connection to Cruz, if any, is still unknown.
Officials have not suggested the suspect had any accomplices.
Cruz's former classmates thought they were having another drill Wednesday afternoon when a fire alarm sounded, requiring them to file out of their classrooms. That's when police say Cruz opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon, killing 17 people and sending hundreds of students fleeing into the streets. Police say Cruz was equipped with a gas mask, smoke grenades and multiple magazines of ammunition.
It was the nation's deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago. The overall death toll differs by how such shootings are defined, but Everytown For Gun Safety has tallied 290 school shootings in America since 2013, and this attack makes 18 so far this year. Cruz purchased the AR-15 legally about a year ago.
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