When the fire alarm went off for the second time at around 2:20 on Feb.14, Junior Lorenzo Prado was in the auditorium sound booth working on lighting for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Drama’s upcoming musical production, “Yo Vikings.” Because it was so close to the end of the school day, he decided to finish fixing the lighting equipment, confident that the fire alarm was just a fluke.
As he continued working on the spotlight, Prado began to hear banging on the auditorium doors. He descended down the stairs and opened the doors to find around 75 students stampeding in. As the students rushed in, Prado heard that there was a code red issued and immediately ran back into the sound booth and closed the door behind him.
“Since I was the only one in there, I was the reason why so many people were able to hide in the auditorium,” Prado said. “It’s scary to think that if I would’ve left with my friends when the fire alarm went off, all those kids might not have been able to get in.”
Once in the booth, Prado paced around while texting his friends and family, trying to find out if the code red was real or a drill. Occasionally, he would look through the booth windows onto the seats and saw people whispering and pointing at him. He tried to ignore them because the last thing he wanted was for people to think he had anything to do with the situation. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.
As Prado sat in the booth, the door to where he was hiding kept rattling like someone was trying to get in. Thinking the shooter was trying to get in, he hid underneath the table, fearing for his life. Fortunately for Prado, it was the SWAT that came bursting in.
“At some point, the door started shaking. I was pretty freaked out because I thought it might’ve been the guy. I was so relieved when I heard multiple people because I knew it was the police,” Prado said.
As they came in, Prado got up from underneath the table ready to finally evacuate the building. To the law enforcement officers however, Prado was a suspect. When they reached the top of the stairs, he was ordered to get down and put his hands up. Startled and confused, Prado got on his knees and put his hand behind his back.
The SWAT team escorted Prado out of the booth and when they reached the bottom of the stairs, he realized he had his phone in his hand. Prado then attempted to put his phone into his pocket. Upon moving his hand, the officers immediately reacted, stepping back and shouting at him to drop the phone. Prado had no other choice but to drop it, shattering the screen and destroying the home button. He was then handcuffed and placed in the corner next to the girl’s restroom in the auditorium lobby, at gunpoint.
“I was pretty scared. Although there was a woman guarding me with a gun and another officer near the doors, I could hear everything from their walkie-talkies and knew that they still did not know where the shooter was. That’s also how I found out why they were so suspicious of me,” Prado said.
It turns out that Prado matched the description the officers were given of the shooter perfectly. He wore a maroon collared shirt and black pants, the same outfit that the shooter wore that day. Prado was kept there for what felt like days, knowing that any sudden movements could end his life.
He was eventually uncuffed and allowed to call his mom, but was still detained. After the shooter was caught, Prado was released and went to evacuate the building. But, as he passed the freshman building, Prado was grabbed by the neck and questioned extensively by more law enforcement officers.
After providing detailed answers, Prado was finally able to run off of school grounds with his peers and reconnect with his friends who had initially evacuated during the fire alarm.
The following Tuesday, Prado rode a bus to the state capital along with his fellow students to talk to state legislators. The next day, he took to the podium and spoke about how it was not only the shooter’s fault, but the fault of the laws that allowed him to purchase a firearm “before he was able to drink beer.”
“I heard talk about giving guns to teachers at school. We shouldn’t solve our gun issue with more guns; it’s like fighting fire with fire. These school shootings are a disease that is plaguing this country, and we need a cure before there are any more casualties,” Prado said.
Prado’s unique experience during this tragedy displayed the decisive nature of the SWAT team and other law enforcement officers, but also highlighted the flaws that the laws concerning firearm purchases have. Prado, along with many of his peers, demand that someone with ill intentions cannot get their hands on dangerous weapons such as an AR-15.