US & Canada

Florida shooting: West Point admits murdered hero Peter Wang

Peter Wang funeral Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Peter Wang was one of 17 killed in February's mass school shooting

A junior cadet who died helping other students escape a Florida school shooting has been posthumously accepted into a prestigious US military school.

Peter Wang, 15, one of 17 killed in the 14 February attack, was admitted to the class of 2025 at his dream school, West Point Academy.

He was a member of the US Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC), a school programme for potential US military officers.

His funeral took place on Tuesday.

The school will confer a letter of admission and honorarium tokens to his family, local West Point alumnus Chad Maxey told the Sun Sentinel newspaper.

Florida Governor Rick Scott also reportedly directed the state's National Guard to honour Peter and two other members of the JROTC at their funerals.

Image copyright BBC (supplied)
Image caption Peter Wang was reportedly wearing his JROTC uniform when he died

The US Army bestowed the Medal of Heroism on three students who were killed, including Peter, according to US media.

The Cadet Command also approved Junior ROTC Heroism Medals for 14-year-old cadets Alaina Petty and Martin Duque, an army spokesman told US media.

Peter was in uniform when he was fatally shot while holding the door for others fleeing a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, witnesses say.

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Media captionStudents staged an anti-gun 'lie-in'

The recognition comes after an online petition called for him to be laid to rest with military honours, saying he "deserves" to be buried as a hero, because "his selfless and heroic actions have led to the survival of dozens in the area".

Peter, who had spent part of his childhood in his parents' native China, had dreamed of attending the West Point military academy, friends say.

Jesse Pan, a neighbour and longstanding friend of Peter's family, told the BBC Chinese Service he had tried to support the teenager's parents as they struggled to cope with the loss.

"I was there with his parents, helping translating and finding a funeral home," he said.

"His parents fainted as soon as they saw his body. He had got multiple shots in front… So horrible."

Meanwhile, about 100 students from Stoneman Douglas have travelled by bus to the Florida state capitol, where they plan to hold a rally against gun violence on Wednesday.

Some of them arrived on Tuesday in time to see the Republican-controlled state legislature reject a proposed ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines.

State lawmakers voted down the measure after opening their session with a prayer for the victims of the Parkland high school shooting.

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Media captionAs a gunman opened fire in a Florida high school, students inside reached for their phones.

The students, whose school is shut until 27 February, are hoping their march inspires others across the US.

A larger protest is being planned for Washington DC on 24 March.

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday called for a ban on rapid-fire "bump stock" devices, which were used last October's Las Vegas massacre, but not in the Florida high school attack.

The Parkland school was the scene of a deadly rampage last week, when an ex-student allegedly opened fire with an AR-15 assault rifle.

The suspect, Nikolas Cruz, had moved in with a friend, who also attended the school, after his adoptive mother died in 2017.

The parents who hosted Mr Cruz, James and Kimberly Snead, told CBS News the teenager was depressed but they did not realise how troubled he was.

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Media captionEmma Gonzalez told a rally that the massacre was not only a mental health issue

"The Nik we knew was not the Nik that everybody else seemed to know," James Snead told CBS.

"He pulled one over on us. As well as a lot of people," Mrs Snead said.

Mr Snead, a US army veteran, said he knew Mr Cruz had guns but believed he had the only key to the safe where they were located.

He added that it was Mr Cruz's right to have guns.

Image copyright ABC
Image caption James and Kimberly Snead told ABC about how they took in the troubled teenager after his adopted mum died

Law enforcement officials say that Mr Cruz legally purchased seven rifles in the last year, despite several mental health warnings.

The couple also told ABC News that Mr Cruz had texted their son only three minutes before the attack began in Parkland, Florida, to say he was "going to the movies".

When they first saw him at the police station after he was arrested, he "mumbled" an apology to the parents.

Documents obtained by CBS show that Mr Cruz and his late adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, were visited by Florida's Department of Children and Families (DCF) after allegations of medical neglect in September 2016.

The investigator reportedly determined that Mr Cruz suffered from depression, ADHD and autism, had cut his arms in a post on social media and once plastered a racist message on his school backpack.

Officials closed the investigation after deciding he was not being mistreated, according to CBS News.

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