Lorenzo Prado said he felt guilty about not being able to save his classmates. He could not have. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting survivor was held at gunpoint and taken into custody by SWAT officers after students mistakenly believed he may have been the shooter and reported him.
The junior at the Parkland, Florida high school joined students at a rally in the state’s capitol to advocate for stricter control laws. By late afternoon Wednesday, there were more than 3,000 people protesting.
Here’s what you need to know about Lorenzo Prado:
1. While Speaking at a Gun Control Rally, Prado Described His Terror When a SWAT Team Thought He Was the Shooter
Prado described what happened shortly before the dismissal bell on Valentine’s Day as Nickolas Cruz was spraying bullets into classrooms.
“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.”
The 17-year-old continued: “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…”
2.Prado Spoke Urgently About Enacting Tough Gun Control Measures at a Student Protest in Florida’s State Capitol
Prado shared his story but took the opportunity to turn it into a teaching moment when he urged elected officials in Florida to change gun laws.
On the bus to Tallahassee, Lorenzo posted this image.
3. Prado Choked Up When Expressing His Overwhelming Feelings of Guilt After the Massacre at Stoneman Douglas
During his remarks at the rally, Prado admitted that while tremendous fear gripped him, so too did guilt.
“I felt guilty for closing the door behind me. I felt guilty for startling the audience. I felt guilty for the SWAT that had to pursue me instead of pursuing the murderer. I felt guilty for not contacting my mother. I felt guilty for Coach Hixson whose life I thought I saved when he walked inside the auditorium but whose life was ended when he walked out again,” Prado says holding back tears.
But quickly adds, “But guilty I shall feel no longer because I’m here to demand change from our government because the lives lost shall not be lost in vain.”
4. At the Podium, Prado Remembered & Mourned the Loss of His Friend, Parkland Shooting Victim Nicholas Dworet
Prado spoke about his close friend Nicholas Dworet, the high school’s swim team captain who was gunned down in the school massacre. Dworet, who had recently signed with the University of Indianapolis, was “a mentor to so many on his swim team where he was given the nickname “’Big Boss.’” Prado said Dworet dreamed of being an Olympian. “But that is a dream he can no longer achieve because Nikolas Cruz abhorrently decided to take Nicholas Dworet’s life,” he said.
Dworet’s family wrote he had “aspirations to swim in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”
5. Like His Friend Dworet, Prado is Also a Swimmer
Lorenzo swam the 50-yard freestyle with his mentor and schoolmate Dworet at the Coral Springs Sprint Invitational in late 2013. Swimming in the age 13 and over category, he was just a couple of seconds behind Dworet in the race.
Prado also was featured on the College Swimming website where his fastest, and most recent, record time in the 50-yard freestyle was set in the Coral Springs Open Invite just two days before at the the shooting.