POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump came face-to-face Friday with hospitalized victims from the horrific school shooting in Florida and offered thanks to the doctors and nurses who helped the wounded, declaring “the job they’ve done is incredible.”
Asked if he’d talked with victims, Trump added: “I did indeed, and it’s very sad something like that could happen.”
The president had tweeted earlier that he would meet with people “whose lives have been totally shattered.”
Trump and first lady Melania Trump came to Broward Health North Hospital to pay their respects to the medical professionals who had responded to the shooting in nearby Parkland. They planned to meet with law enforcement officials at the Broward County Sheriff’s office later Friday.
But some of the parents, survivors and others affected by the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were more interested in firm action to prevent future assaults than a presidential visit.
“I don’t want Trump to come but we want more gun safety,” said 18-year-old Kevin Trejos, a senior at the school where 17 people were killed and 14 injured. “It’s a dream. It hasn’t hit me yet.”
Trump marveled at the speed with which first responders got victims to the hospital — but ignored shouted questions about whether guns should be more tightly regulated.
More than 1,000 people had attended a candlelight vigil Thursday night near the school, and at one point some began chanting, “No more gun! No more guns!”
Lori Alhadeff’s 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed during the shooting. She invoked the president’s 11-year-old son, Barron, as she angrily called for help.
“President Trump, Barron goes to school. Let’s protect Barron. And let’s also protect all these other kids,” she said Friday on CNN, her voice raising to a shout. “You need to help us, now. We need security now for all these children. We need action, action, action!”
Trump, who frequently boasts about his support for the National Rifle Association, made no mention of gun violence or any new measure to restrict access to firearms during remarks Thursday about the shooting. He did promise to tackle school safety and “the difficult issue of mental health.”
He also tweeted Friday that he was “working with Congress on many fronts,” though he offered no details.
The president made the trip to meet with first responders soon after Air Force One arrived in West Palm Beach for the president to spend the weekend at his Palm Beach estate, which is about 40 miles from Parkland.
In a departure from the Trumps’ original schedule, Mrs. Trump arrived at Air Force One separately from her husband for the flight to Florida and boarded the plane while reporters were kept away. A spokeswoman said the change was due to scheduling.
As he departed, Trump ignored shouted questions from journalists about a report in The New Yorker magazine that he had an affair in 2006 with a Playboy model.
Discussing the school shooting, police said the 19-year-old suspect in Florida, Nikolas Cruz, opened fire with an AR-15 rifle. Investigators described him as a troubled teenager who posted disturbing material on social media and had been expelled from the high school for “disciplinary reasons,” Broward County, Florida, Sheriff Scott Israel said.
The profile photo on Cruz’s Instagram account showed a masked face wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat like those associated with Trump’s campaign.
The shooting was the nation’s deadliest at a school since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago.
Before he was a candidate, Trump at one point favoured some tighter gun regulations. But he embraced gun rights as a candidate, and the NRA spent $30 million in support of his campaign.
During his brief televised statement, Trump said he wanted to work to “create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life,” a phrase likely to resonate with his conservative base.
Lemire contributed from New York. AP writers Zeke Miller, Ken Thomas, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Maria Danilova contributed from Washington
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Catherine Lucey And Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press