Evangelical leaders call for prayers after Florida school shooting

Bob Ossler, chaplain with the Cape Coral volunteer fire department, places seventeen crosses for the victims of yesterday's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on a fence a short distance from the school in Parkland, Florida, February 15, 2018. | Reuters/Jonathan Drake

Several evangelical leaders have called for prayers after the mass shooting at a Florida high school that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen people.

On Wednesday afternoon, Nikolas Cruz, 19, gunned down students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, killing at least 17 and injuring dozens of others.

Evangelical leaders immediately called for prayers following the incident, with some expressing grief over the prevalence of school shootings in the U.S.

"Let every American stop what he or she is doing, and call out to God on behalf of all America's students, that God would spare our nation of ever again having to mourn such a senseless loss of life at our children's schools," said Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Pastor Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, pointed out that the latest incident in Florida came only three weeks after a school shooting in Kentucky.

"Students should never be afraid to step onto their school's campus, and parents should never have to see images of their children fleeing the scene of a shooting on the news," Laurie said, according to Charisma.

"Let us pray for God's comfort for all the victims and let us never grow tired of praying that these types of mass shootings will one day soon come to an end in America," he continued.

Evangelist Franklin Graham took to Facebook on Wednesday to ask Christians to pray for the students, staff and families affected by the latest mass shooting and urged them to include law enforcement and first responders in their prayers as well.

Cruz, who was armed with at least one AR-15 rifle and "multiple magazines," was reportedly a former student at the school but had been expelled for unknown "disciplinary reasons" last year.

The authorities are now investigating whether the suspect may have pulled the fire alarm to draw more people out into the halls before he opened fire.

Some students said they thought that they heard the fire alarm go off right before the first shots were fired and many were in the process of evacuating. Many students were said to be confused as a fire drill had already taken place earlier that day.

The police who arrived at the scene had learned that the gunman tried to conceal himself among the hundreds of students fleeing the school. The gunman was arrested about an hour after the shooting broke out when he was cornered by the police in a nearby neighborhood.

On Thursday, officials announced that Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.