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February 15, 2018

Flyers' Gostisbehere shares 'heavy heart' over shooting at his Florida high school

In the wake of Wednesday's deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman expressed his sadness over the horrific attack at his alma mater in South Florida.

The Flyers released a statement from Gostisbehere early Thursday.

Gostisbehere grew up in Broward County and learned how to skate at the Florida Panthers' Incredible Ice Facility in nearby Coral Springs, just a few miles away from the high school. He's regarded as the NHL's first player born and raised in South Florida. 

Later Thursday afternoon, Gostisbehere spoke to members of the media about the tragic shooting, explaining that he had always felt safe during the two years he spent at the high school. 

Seventeen students and faculty members were killed Wednesday afternoon when a former student, later identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, opened fire on campus with an AR-15 assault rifle. Cruz was reportedly expelled from the school last year for fighting and returned to seek vengeance.

Social media posts connected to Cruz paint a disturbing picture of his extremism and violent intentions over the past year. Late Thursday afternoon, CNN reported that a YouTube user had warned the FBI about Cruz five months prior to the shooting. Students at the high school who were interviewed Wednesday said they weren't surprised to learn that Cruz had been identified as the alleged shooter. 

The Florida Sun-Sentinal reported Thursday that Cruz confessed his guilt to detectives in the aftermath of the shooting. In his first court appearance Thursday morning, he was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. 

Victims of the shooting were revealed late Thursday as the nation again confronted an unresolved debate over gun violence and reform, mental health intervention and practical ways to prevent these now-common attacks from occurring in the future.