California school shooting shines light on murky ‘ghost gun’ world

By Brad Brooks

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – “Ghost guns” like the one a 16-year-old boy used to kill two classmates and injure three others at a California high school last week are self-assembled, virtually untraceable – and completely legal.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department confirmed that the .45-caliber pistol that Nathaniel Berhow used in the shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, on his 16th birthday was made from a kit. He then shot himself and died a day later in the hospital.

Such firearms have no serial numbers, and by making the gun themselves, owners can legally bypass background checks and registration regulations. That’s why they are known as “ghost guns.”

Kits can be purchased online or at gun shows, as long as the frames are not fully functional. But users can easily and cheaply machine and assemble them.

Police do not know how Berhow got his hands on the pistol he used, or who sold it and assembled it.

Kit guns represent what law enforcement and gun safety advocates call the next frontier of the fight to keep weapons away from potential criminals.

“Congress and state legislatures enact all these crimes about gun registration. But now the gun industry is creating a way to just bypass the entire thing,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told KABC TV on Thursday in confirming the weapon used in the high school shooting on Nov. 14.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not immediately reply to questions about whether it tracks how many such untraceable weapons it recovers.

MORE UNKNOWN

“More is unknown about ghost guns than known,” said Nick Suplina, managing director for law and policy at gun safety advocacy group Everytown.

“Law enforcement is increasingly having to familiarize themselves with them, but it’s not hit the public consciousness yet that there is a legal, untraceable firearm out there that can be ordered in parts online and assembled at home.”

Suplina, a former New York state prosecutor who has worked on cases involving such guns, said law enforcement agencies have no reporting requirements for ghost guns used in crimes.

But in the past decade they have gone from relatively complex and difficult weapons to put together to incredibly simple.

To stay within federal law, the frames or “receivers” of such guns can be sold 80% complete. The other components required to build a functioning firearm are often sold along with the frame and packaged as a kit.

Kit guns vary widely in prices, like fully assembled weapons, but the same models are generally the same price.

Also included are drill bits and jigs that allow the purchaser to easily mill the frame with a simple drill press that can cost less than $100.

In recent years, federal courts convicted several people for manufacturing untraceable weapons without a license.

“Criminal enterprises and gangs are seeing a real opportunity here to mass manufacture untraceable firearms and sell them at a premium,” Suplina said.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; editing by Bill Tarrant and Gerry Doyle)

California police find no motive for school shooting

California police find no motive for school shooting By Steve Gorman SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (Reuters) - A 16-year-old student was carrying out a deliberate plan when he shot five teenagers at his California high school then turned the gun on himself, the local sheriff said on Friday, but authorities have no clues about what sparked the bloodshed. "We did not find any manifesto, any diary that spelled it out," Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a briefing. The gunman, whose identity has not been made public, survived the self-inflicted gunshot wound but was in grave condition in a hospital, Villanueva said. Two of the other five students who were shot in the Thursday morning attack died of their wounds. Detectives worked through the night to follow up on tips related to the shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, about 40 miles (65 km) north of Los Angeles. The shooting, which was caught on video, unfolded in 16 seconds, police said. Arriving at school on his 16th birthday, the suspect pulled a .45 semi-automatic pistol from his backpack in an outdoor courtyard, stood in one place and shot his victims in rapid succession before turning the gun and firing the last bullet into his head. Villanueva said authorities did not know the origin of the gun used, nor how the shooter got his hands on it. All Hart District schools in Santa Clarita were closed on Friday, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's office said on Twitter, out of respect for the victims and their families. Two girls aged 14 and 15 were being treated at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, California and were listed in good and fair condition, a hospital spokeswoman said early on Friday. At the Henry Mayo Hospital in Santa Clarita, authorities said a 14-year-old boy was treated and released. Two other students who had been taken there died. A hospital spokesman could not immediately be reached on Friday. Villanueva identified one of the students killed as Gracie Anne Muehlberger, 15. He said the families of the other student killed and those wounded did not authorize him to release their names. The scene at Saugus High School was reminiscent of other mass shootings at U.S. schools, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a former student with an assault rifle killed 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018. It was the 85th incident of gunfire at a school this year, according to Everytown, a gun control advocacy group. (Reporting by Steve Gorman and Alan Devall in Santa Clarita; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani, Gabriella Borter and Barbara Goldberg in New York City, Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas, Dan Whitcomb in Culver City and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Dan Whitcomb and additional reporting and writing by Rich McKay; Editing by Frances Kerry and Bill Berkrot)

California police find no motive for school shooting
By Steve Gorman

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (Reuters) – A 16-year-old student was carrying out a deliberate plan when he shot five teenagers at his California high school then turned the gun on himself, the local sheriff said on Friday, but authorities have no clues about what sparked the bloodshed.

“We did not find any manifesto, any diary that spelled it out,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a briefing.

The gunman, whose identity has not been made public, survived the self-inflicted gunshot wound but was in grave condition in a hospital, Villanueva said. Two of the other five students who were shot in the Thursday morning attack died of their wounds.

Detectives worked through the night to follow up on tips related to the shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, about 40 miles (65 km) north of Los Angeles. The shooting, which was caught on video, unfolded in 16 seconds, police said.

Arriving at school on his 16th birthday, the suspect pulled a .45 semi-automatic pistol from his backpack in an outdoor courtyard, stood in one place and shot his victims in rapid succession before turning the gun and firing the last bullet into his head.

Villanueva said authorities did not know the origin of the gun used, nor how the shooter got his hands on it.

All Hart District schools in Santa Clarita were closed on Friday, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s office said on Twitter, out of respect for the victims and their families.

Two girls aged 14 and 15 were being treated at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, California and were listed in good and fair condition, a hospital spokeswoman said early on Friday.

At the Henry Mayo Hospital in Santa Clarita, authorities said a 14-year-old boy was treated and released. Two other students who had been taken there died. A hospital spokesman could not immediately be reached on Friday.

Villanueva identified one of the students killed as Gracie Anne Muehlberger, 15. He said the families of the other student killed and those wounded did not authorize him to release their names.

The scene at Saugus High School was reminiscent of other mass shootings at U.S. schools, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a former student with an assault rifle killed 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018.

It was the 85th incident of gunfire at a school this year, according to Everytown, a gun control advocacy group.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman and Alan Devall in Santa Clarita; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani, Gabriella Borter and Barbara Goldberg in New York City, Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas, Dan Whitcomb in Culver City and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Dan Whitcomb and additional reporting and writing by Rich McKay; Editing by Frances Kerry and Bill Berkrot)

At least five wounded after shooting at California high school: officials

At least five  people were wounded after a shooter opened fire at a high school in Santa Clarita, California, a city north of Los Angeles, officials said.

A suspect described as a male Asian in black clothing was still at large, the Santa Clarita Valley sheriff said on Twitter.

“This is still a very active situation. Reports of approximately 5 victims being treated. Parents, deputies are on scene everywhere protecting your children,” the Santa Clarita Valley branch of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office tweeted.

Saugus High School and all schools in the William S. Hart district were placed on lockdown while authorities flooded the area.

Video from local NBC television showed a line of students walking away from the school and a row of police and fire department vehicles parked out front.

KTLA video, broadcast on CNN, showed one woman being loaded into an ambulance.

“Several injured. LASD resources on site and searching for suspect,” Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Undersheriff Tim Murakami said in a post on Twitter. “Will be locking down area schools. Advise residents to shelter in place and report any suspicious activity.”

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Gabriella Borter and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Bill Berkrot)

Colorado school officials consider razing site of Columbine massacre

FILE PHOTO: Students arrive for class at Columbine High School before participating in a National School Walkout to honor the 17 students and staff members killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in Littleton, Colorado, U.S., March 14, 2018. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) – Public education officials in Colorado are considering a plan to tear down and rebuild Columbine High School, saying the site remains a “source of inspiration” for potential gun violence 20 years after a mass shooting there left 15 people dead.

The idea was floated on Thursday in an open letter from the superintendent of Jefferson County public schools, Jason Glass, to Columbine staff, students, parents and members of the surrounding Denver suburb of Littleton, Colorado.

The proposal calls for placing a bond measure seeking $60 million to $70 million on a future ballot to pay for demolition of the existing school and construction of a new school to replace it just west of the current site.

Under the superintendent’s plan, the new campus would still be called Columbine High School, “honoring the pride and spirit the community has with the name,” and its school mascot and colors would remain unchanged.

The county Board of Education and administration are “in the very preliminary and exploratory stages” of discussing such a plan, and are seeking public feedback on the proposal, Glass said.

He cited numerous instances in which actual or would-be perpetrators of violence expressed a fascination with Columbine, including an 18-year-old Florida woman who shot herself to death in April after she sparked an extensive manhunt by traveling to Colorado days before the 20th anniversary of the 1999 massacre.

‘SOURCE OF INSPIRATION’

In 2010, 29-year-old twin sisters from Australia, obsessed with the shooting, traveled to Colorado and shot themselves at a local gun range in a suicide pact. One of the women survived, and police found among their belongings a photocopy of a news magazine cover depicting the Columbine killers and their victims.

The Columbine site, Glass said, “continues to serve as a source of inspiration for potential school shooters, and its lasting impact only seems to be growing.”

Fifteen people were killed in the Columbine rampage, which at the time ranked as the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. Two high school seniors shot and killed 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives in the bloodshed on April 20, 1999.

The now-retired principal of Columbine during the massacre, Frank DeAngelis, 64, said Glass had sought his opinion before going public with the demolition idea, and he thought it was a “good plan.”

“Twenty years ago, we never imagined that there would be people so infatuated with this tragedy years later,” DeAngelis said. “Maybe moving the physical plant would alleviate some of the issues.”

Aside from numerous threats and the hoaxes the school has received over the years, curiosity seekers would take pictures of their children in front of the school with the Columbine sign in the background.

“It became a tourist attraction,” he said.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Lisa Shumaker)

Ex-deputy charged for not responding to Florida school shooting remains in jail: judge

Former Broward County sheriff's deputy Scot Peterson appears via video feed from the Broward County jail in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., June 5, 2019. Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Pool via REUTERS

(Reuters) – The former Florida sheriff’s deputy criminally charged for his lack of response to the 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland high school that left 17 dead will remain in jail on $102,000 bond, a bail court judge ordered on Wednesday.

Scot Peterson, 56, was arrested Tuesday on 11 charges of neglect and negligence for remaining outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the attack. He was booked into the Broward County jail.

Peterson, who lives in North Carolina, is the first police officer to be criminally charged for his response to an active shooter situation, his attorney, Joseph DiRuzzo, said.

Felony and misdemeanor charges against Peterson include seven counts of child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury.

Peterson was a Broward County deputy on duty as a school resource officer when Nikolas Cruz, 19, allegedly entered the school building on Feb. 14, 2018, and opened fire. At the time, Peterson was the only armed guard on the campus in Parkland, Florida.

Seventeen students and staffers were killed and 17 were wounded.

Cruz, a student who had been expelled from the school, was arrested and is awaiting trial on multiple murder charges.

A lengthy investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found that after hearing gunshots ring out, Peterson, who was trained to immediately confront an active shooter, failed to investigate their source and retreated to take cover, according to his arrest warrant.

“Had this individual done his job, lives would have been saved,” said U.S. Senator Rick Scott, who was governor of Florida when the shooting happened.

Three weeks after the shooting, Scott signed into law a bill imposing a 21-year-old legal age requirement and three-day waiting period on all gun purchases and allowing the arming of some school employees.

Peterson has insisted he responded properly by notifying police and assisting a school lockdown. He told the Washington Post, “It just happened, and I started reacting.”

Peterson resigned a week after the shooting. Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said on Tuesday he had fired Peterson and another deputy, Brian Miller, saying they had neglected their duties during the shooting.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)

Selfless teen killed in Colorado school shooting loved robotics, helping the elderly

People hold up the phone lights during a moment of silence at a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019 as U.S. Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO) speaks. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) – Kendrick Ray Castillo, the 18-year-old who sacrificed his life to save other students during a shooting in a suburban Denver high school, loved robotics, helping the elderly in his community and making people laugh, his friend told Reuters.

Cece Bedard, who knew Castillo since elementary school, said she broke down in tears when she heard her friend had died but was not surprised at his selfless act.

“There is no doubt in my mind that he would have done anything he thought he could have to help anyone,” Bedard said on Wednesday.

Two teenagers are accused of opening fire on fellow students on Tuesday at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Denver, killing Castillo and wounding eight other students.

People listen at a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

People listen at a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Witnesses said Castillo, who was due to graduate in three days, charged at one of the shooters.

“Kendrick lunged at him,” senior Nui Giasolli told NBC News, referring to the older of the two shooting suspects, Devon Erickson, 18, who was being held on Wednesday on murder and attempted murder charges.

“He shot Kendrick, giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe, and to run across the room to escape,” Giasolli said.

Fellow student, Brendan Bialy, a U.S. Marine recruit who also charged the shooter with a third student, described Castillo as an unstoppable bowling ball.

“Basically when he gets moving there’s no stopping him,” Bialy said in an interview with multiple media outlets, including Denver’s Fox News affiliate, late on Wednesday.

Bialy said his friend showed no hesitation.

Bedard said she and Castillo both volunteered with their fathers at the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s community service organization when they were in middle school.

Castillo loved tagging along with his father to volunteer with the Knights of Columbus, whether it involved carrying heavy crates of fruit for a peach drive or setting up senior lunches. He was especially good at connecting with the elderly people he served, Bedard said.

“He was always there earlier than I was and was always there later than I was,” she said.

His friends remembered Castillo as a goofy jokester, although his humor was never at anyone’s expense, Bedard said. He had a strong sense of self and did not care what other people thought of him, a trait that made him stand out among his peers.

Castillo was also a member of a regional robotics team, another community that was mourning his loss on Wednesday.

“We’re heartbroken by the death of Kendrick Castillo … Kendrick was a member of @Frc4418, of which his father is Lead Mentor,” FIRST, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing youth in STEM, said on Twitter.

Bialy said Castillo was not a victim but someone who jumped into action.

“I love that kid,” Bialy said. “He died a trooper. He got his ticket to Valhalla, and I know he will be with me for the rest of my life.”

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in NEW YORK; Additional reporting by Rich McKay in ATLANTA; Editing by Frank McGurty, Phil Berlowitz and Paul Tait)

Two students arrested in Colorado school shooting make first appearance

Crime scene tape is seen outside the school following the shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

By Keith Coffman

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (Reuters) – Two teenage students accused of fatally shooting one classmate and wounding eight in a suburban Denver school made separate court appearances on Wednesday, a day after their arrest on suspicion of murder and attempted murder.

Douglas County District Judge Theresa Slade, who presided over both proceedings, ordered the two suspects to remain held without bond pending their next court hearings, set for Friday, when formal charges are expected to be filed.

The two youths are accused of opening fire with handguns on fellow students on Tuesday in two classrooms at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Denver.

They were arrested by police after several students under fire at the school fought back, including a young U.S. Marine recruit, Brendan Bialy, who survived, and 18-year-old robotics enthusiast Kendrick Ray Castillo, who was killed.

Castillo’s father, John Castillo, told the Denver Fox news affiliate Fox 31, that his son, “gave up his life for others.”

“If he didn’t do it, what would this mess look like?” he said.

Devon Erickson, 18, accused of taking part in a deadly school shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, appears at the Douglas County Courthouse where he faces murder and attempted murder charges, in Castle Rock, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. Joe Amon/The Denver Post/Pool via REUTERS

The first defendant, Devon Erickson, 18, who prosecutors said they were treating as an adult, sat silently at a small table with his head bowed, hands shackled to his waist, flanked by two defense lawyers as a pair of sheriff’s deputies stood just behind them.

Slight of build with longish, unkempt black hair partially dyed bright lavender, Erickson wore an orange-red jail uniform.

His 16-year-old accused accomplice, referred to in court by his lawyer as Alec McKinney, was listed on the court docket by the name Maya Elizabeth McKinney but was addressed by the judge during the hearing as Mr McKinney.

Denver’s ABC television affiliate, citing an unidentified police source, has reported that the younger suspect identified as transgender and had been bullied for it.

Erickson’s hearing was televised live, but the judge closed McKinney’s hearing to cameras. District Attorney George Brauchler said he would decide by Friday whether to charge McKinney as a juvenile or adult.

Dressed in dark blue jail garb with short-cropped brown hair, McKinney said little in court except to answer softly, “No your honor,” when the judge asked the defendant if there were any questions. The judge refused a defense request to unshackle McKinney for the hearing.

No pleas were entered.

ECHOES OF COLUMBINE

The ABC affiliate, Denver 7, said the two pistols used in the attack had been stolen from the home of Erickson. His friends told the Denver Post that he had acted in musical theater and performed as lead singer in several rock bands. According to Denver 7, city law enforcement sources, Erickson’s parents had purchased the guns legally.

Both defendants were being held on suspicion of a single count of first-degree murder and 29 counts of attempted murder, according to court records. Eight students were wounded in the shooting and survived.

The attack occurred less than a month after the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in nearby Littleton, carried out by two students who shot 13 people to death before committing suicide.

Precisely what happened inside the STEM school remained unclear as police searched for a motive in the attack.

Sheriff Tony Spurlock said there was a struggle as officers entered the building, and some students said one victim was shot in the chest as he tried to tackle a shooter.

A man who identified himself as Fernando Montoya said his 17-year-old son, a junior at STEM, was shot three times when one assailant walked into his classroom and opened fire.

“He said a guy pulled a pistol out of a guitar case and started to shoot,” Montoya told the Denver TV station.

The bloodshed shocked the affluent suburb of Highlands Ranch. Parents and students had considered the school a safe place for its 1,850 pupils ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade.

“It still doesn’t seem real to me. It completely came out of nowhere,” Aiden Beatty, a friend of Erickson, told the Denver Post, recounting that he broke down sobbing in his car when he heard Erickson had been arrested in the shooting. “I was really close with him. We were best friends.”

The attack came a week after a gunman opened fire on the Charlotte campus of the University of North Carolina, killing two people and wounding four others.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Castle Rock, Colo.; additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Peter Szekely in New York and Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico and Rich McKay in Atlanta; writing by Scott Malone and Steve Gorman; editing by Bill Trott, G Crosse and Lisa Shumaker)

10 dead, including six kids, in ‘unspeakably brutal’ Brazil school shooting; 17 hurt

Policemen are seen at the Raul Brasil school after a shooting in Suzano, Sao Paulo state, Brazil March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

By Leonardo Benassatto

SUZANO, Brazil (Reuters) – Two armed men wearing face masks entered a Brazilian elementary school Wednesday and shot and killed at least six children who were on their snack breaks, as well as two school officials, before fatally turning their guns on themselves, police said.

Ten people, including the gunmen, were killed in total, Sao Paulo police said.

The unidentified gunmen, who appeared to be between 20 and 25 years of age, shot and killed a worker at a nearby car wash before their attack at the Raul Brasil school, police said. More than 1,000 children aged between 11 and 15 attend classes there.

Another 17 people – mostly school kids – were shot and injured, and several of them were in serious condition, said police, who were not yet aware of a motive for the violence.

Marcelo Salles, commander of police forces in Sao Paulo state, spoke just outside the school and said that in his over three decades of service, he had “never seen anything like this, it was an unspeakably brutal crime.”

Salles said the gunmen used at least one .38 caliber pistol, along with homemade bombs and a crossbow. Police arrived eight minutes after the shooting started and did not confront the gunmen, who had already killed themselves, he said.

A homemade video taken during the shooting and aired by Globo TV showed children screaming, running and begging for their lives as loud shots were heard all around.

Security cameras from homes near the school showed children climbing and jumping over a white wall that surrounds the Raul Brasil building, and sprinting down streets, screaming for help.

School shootings are rare in Brazil, even though the country is one of the world’s most violent, with more annual homicides than any other. The last major school shooting was in 2011, when 12 children were shot dead by a former pupil in Rio de Janeiro.

While gun laws are extremely strict in Brazil, it is not difficult to illegally purchase a weapon.

Police said the two men, who they did not believe were former students at the school, entered the building and started shooting at about 9:30 a.m. local time.

Another shooting took place about 500 meters from the Raul Brasil school shortly before the killings at the school, but it was not yet clear if the two incidents were related.

Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria said as he stood outside the school that “our solidarity goes out to the families of the victims.”

“I was shocked with the scenes I saw inside that school,” Doria said. “It is the saddest thing I have seen in my life.”

(Reporting by Leonardo Benassatto in Suzano, Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo and Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro; Additional reporting by Caroline Mandl in Sao Paulo; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

‘Do something:’ After school shooting, Florida mother chooses action

Lori Alhadeff, a newly elected school board member in the community where her daughter, 14-year-old Alyssa, was killed in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaks during an interview in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Fogarty

By Letitia Stein

PARKLAND, Fla. (Reuters) – After screaming out on national television for President Donald Trump to “please do something” to prevent another school shooting like the one that had just killed her daughter, Lori Alhadeff heeded her own call for action.

She was powerless when gunfire silenced 14-year-old Alyssa on Feb. 14, 2018. But in the year since 17 people died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Alhadeff ran for the local school board and won. She started a non-profit. She raised money to equip schools with bulletproof glass and emergency medical stop-the-bleed kits.

On Wednesday, she was in New Jersey, her former home, to watch the governor sign an “Alyssa’s Law” named after her daughter. She hopes other states will follow in requiring schools to have silent panic alarms to notify law enforcement in emergencies.

“I had no control on Feb. 14. And as a mother, when you have your children, you need control,” Alhadeff said in an interview with Reuters. “But now I have the control. I have this power, and I am using that power by using my voice.”

Alhadeff is among the Parkland parents who have channeled their anguish into advocacy. Instead of dance recitals, soccer matches and marching band performances, their schedules now involve lobbying trips to state capitols, the U.S. Congress and the White House.

Some served on a state commission that reviewed the Parkland shooting, documenting each failure before and after the firing of the first bullet in a freshmen classroom building. Others have waded into partisan politics to campaign for local and federal candidates pledging to do more for school safety.

For Fred Guttenberg, fighting for gun control is a way to cope when he thinks about the final moments for his daughter, Jaime, who ran down a hallway with a shooter at her back.

“What I have discovered this year is I have this need to still be Jaime’s dad,” he said. “I am not going to ever stop talking about my daughter and what she meant to me – and what the moments without her mean to me.”

Success can be both satisfying and hollow.

“It doesn’t bring my son back,” said Max Schachter, who has focused on identifying best practices for school security after his son, Alex, died with Alhadeff’s daughter in English class.

Alhadeff, 43, once ordered her life around her children’s soccer teams. She now races between school functions and activities for the non-profit, Make Our Schools Safe, she started after Alyssa’s death.

“I know that she would say to me, if I was like sleeping in bed: ‘Mom what are you doing? Why are you wasting your time? You need to get out there and fight for me,'” Alhadeff said.

MOTHER FOR CHANGE

As a stay-at-home mother of three, Alhadeff jokingly called herself Alyssa’s personal assistant. She drove her daughter to the movies, the beach and sporting events – even laying out her shoes with the laces turned just so for her to slip right on.

While her children were at school, Alhadeff played tennis and grocery shopped. To support their teams, she sold cookies and Gatorade at their soccer games.

Last month, Alhadeff cried while recalling those memories. She was again sitting on the sidelines, watching her second child practice soccer where his sister once played. He wears Alyssa’s No. 8 on his jersey.

It was at an adjacent park that Alhadeff asked a reporter for a microphone following the school shooting, not long after making preliminary plans for her daughter’s funeral.

Angry with raw grief, she begged Trump in a live CNN broadcast to take action because she said he was the most powerful person who came to mind.

Late last year, Alhadeff joined a group of Parkland parents to meet with Trump at the White House and discuss a national safety commission he created after the shooting.

Her anger has eased, she said, as she focuses on school safety as the only new member of the Broward County School Board, where she is calling for the removal of the superintendent in charge when her daughter was killed at school.

“I don’t see myself as a politician,” Alhadeff said. “I see myself as a mother wanting to make change.”

She has planned a full day to mark the one-year date from Alyssa’s death – gravesite prayers, lunch at her house, a clean-up event at Alyssa’s favorite beach and community memorial. Staying busy is better than having too much time to think, she said.

But in quiet moments, when she needs to feel close to Alyssa, Alhadeff dabs on perfume from her daughter’s pink Victoria’s Secret bottle. She wears her daughter’s gray sweatshirt with white splotches, which Alyssa bleached in a laundry mishap.

“I am just trying to live for her,” she said.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown)

A year after high school shooting, Florida town still struggling

FILE PHOTO: Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attend a memorial following a school shooting incident in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Thom Baur/File Photo

By Zachary Fagenson

PARKLAND, Fla. (Reuters) – Signs that read “Parkland Strong” and “MSD Strong” still dot the well-manicured Florida town where a young gunman carried out the deadliest U.S. high school shooting on Valentines Day in 2018.

But as the Feb. 14 anniversary of the massacre that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland approaches, students, teachers, parents and community leaders continue struggling to cope with the trauma.

FILE PHOTO: Susan Glaser-Cohen (C) mourns while she stands between the fence of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and crosses placed to commemorate the victims of a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Susan Glaser-Cohen (C) mourns while she stands between the fence of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and crosses placed to commemorate the victims of a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

“There’s a lot of community angst, an overwhelming sadness and frustration because not much has changed in a year,” said Angela Burrafato, whose son graduated from the school last year.

Divides persist over where to put blame and how to prevent another tragedy.

Former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, criticized for the department’s handling of the shooting, was suspended last month by newly elected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and is mounting a legal campaign to reclaim his job.

Some community members also are calling for the removal of Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie. 

The state’s Republican-led legislature swiftly passed gun control measures after the shooting, including raising the age requirement and setting a three-day waiting period for gun purchases.

FILE PHOTO: People attend a candlelight vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: People attend a candlelight vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake/File Photo

Critics argue the restrictions did not go far enough, while a Republican lawmaker from Florida’s Panhandle region filed a bill last month to roll back some of the measures.

The community will come together, however, at a variety of events to mark the shooting that took the lives of 14 students and three adults.

Therapy dogs will roam the high school’s halls on Feb. 14, and the school day will end early. Students who opt not to attend classes will be excused, while those who come to campus have been encouraged to volunteer for community service projects.

An evening interfaith vigil is planned for the same park where thousands gathered the day after the shooting. Nearby, a California-based artist is erecting a 35-foot-tall, wooden Temple of Time commemorating the victims.

It will be adorned with remembrances of the lives lost and will be razed a few weeks later, similar to the annual Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.

Free yoga classes and beach cleanups are being organized. A five-kilometer run honoring slain Stoneman football coach Aaron Feis is planned for Feb. 16.

Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky said the anniversary is a painful reminder of all the city suffered, but the volunteerism helps prevent the shooting from defining it, she said.

“We still have people helping each other, and that’s who Parkland was before this, and who it is today,” she said.

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown)