Lorenzo Prado, a student who survived last week’s deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, recounted the terrifying experience of being mistaken for the gunman.
The 11th grader described SWAT members pointing guns at him and tossing him to the ground in a case of mistaken identity. Prado said he was wearing a similar outfit as Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who confessed to opening fire on the school, killing 17 people.
“I was unjustly cuffed and held at gunpoint for the degrading and depreciating action of the disturbed individual Nikolas Cruz,” Prado said during a press conference Wednesday at the Florida State Capitol. “I knew any move I made would be the end of my life.”
Prado offered a detailed account of his scary experience:
I was in the sound booth inside the auditorium when the fire alarm rang. I decided I would stay behind because what could possibly go wrong? I then hear the banging on the doors of the auditorium, and I run downstairs to see a hundred people banging on the door. I quickly opened the doors to let the people in and see my coach running inside for safety.
I was scared, and I ran to the safest place possible, which was the sound booth again. I start to pace back and forth because I did not know what was going on ― and the people in the audience saw me. They saw me, and they panicked because I was matching the same description of Nikolas Cruz. I had the same clothes, same hair color, same facial structure somewhat. ... And they reported me.
I was just hiding up there. I had no idea what was going on. Then the door started to rattle. At first, the only thought that came to my mind was,“I’m going to die, the shooter is going to kill me.” But then SWAT comes in, and I thought they were here to rescue me. But then as I go down the stairs, I find out that I was wrong.
I found out that they thought it was me that killed the 17 people. I go down the stairs, they tell me to put my hands up. I, being the fool that I was, tried putting my phone back in my pocket. They demanded again, and I, not trying to be one of those news stories of someone dying wrongfully because they refused to put their hands up, I just dropped my phone at that moment and kept going.
When I went out those doors, I had six SWAT members pointing their guns at me. I was tossed to the ground. I was unjustly cuffed and held at gunpoint for the degrading and depreciating action of the disturbed individual Nikolas Cruz.
I was then put in a corner with a policewoman guarding me. I knew any move I made would be the end of my life. Throughout the entire event, I only felt two things: I felt fear, as I did not know my future. I did not know if i was going to be let go. I did not know where the terrorist was. ... the second thing was guilt.
Prado and dozens of other students who survived last week’s massacre met with state lawmakers Wednesday, demanding they take action to stop gun violence and holding a rally and press conference to raise awareness for their cause.
“I am here to demand change from our government because the lives lost, who shall not be lost in vain, shall then be used as a catalyst for change in our country today,” Prado said.
“We’ll make change in our country, and if not today, tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, the day after that and the day after that until we achieve the change that we want in this country ― until the day that safety is preserved in all schools in our beloved country of America,” he continued. “We students will keep fighting for our right to live.”
Prado also memorialized his slain friend Nicholas Dworet, who was killed during the shooting.
“On that day, we lost Nicholas, captain of the swim team and a hero,” Prado said, adding that Dworet aspired to be an Olympic swimmer. “He was seen pushing another student out of the way when the terrorist shot into his classroom. ... He was the heart and soul of the swimming team ― both in and out of school ― because he was friendly to all and mean to none.”