The FBI had a tip that Nikolas Cruz owned guns, wanted to kill people, and could be a future school shooter more than a month before Cruz killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday.
But the tip wasn’t passed on or properly investigated, the FBI admitted in a statement Friday.
According to the FBI, a person close to Nikolas Cruz called in with concerns about him on January 5, 2018 — more than a month before Wednesday’s massacre. The tipster described Cruz’s gun ownership, his “desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting,” the bureau said in a statement.
The tip should have been forwarded to the Miami field office and investigated. But that didn’t happen, the FBI said in a statement: “Protocols were not followed.” The Miami field office did not receive the tip, and “no further investigation was conducted at this time.”
The stunning oversight on the part of law enforcement is likely to generate scrutiny on how law enforcement handles its investigations in such cases.
“We are still investigating the facts,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “I am committed to getting to the bottom of what happened in this particular matter, as well as reviewing the processes for responding to information that we receive from the public.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott went so far as to call for Wray’s resignation. “We constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act,” Scott said. “‘See something, say something’ is an incredibly important tool and people must have confidence in the follow-through from law enforcement.”
In addition to the call to the FBI tip line, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a press conference Friday that his department had received about 20 calls regarding Cruz in the past few years. He did not give details about the calls, but said he would investigate each one to make sure it was handled appropriately.
“Must always report,” Trump tweeted. In Florida, people did.
In the aftermath of the shooting, President Donald Trump appeared to blame “neighbors and classmates” for not reporting Cruz to authorities. But the FBI’s statement is the latest piece of evidence that many people not only saw red flags in Cruz’s behavior but tried to report them — and those warnings were not thoroughly pursued or fell on deaf ears.
So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2018
The FBI’s failure to act on this tip comes on the heels of questions over a YouTube comment posted last fall by someone named “nikolas cruz” that read “Im going to be a professional school shooter.” A man in Mississippi saw the comment on his YouTube channel and flagged it to both YouTube, which removed it, and the authorities.
At a press conference Thursday, FBI special agent Rob Lasky said that agents had spoken with the man who made the complaint — which tipster Ben Bennight confirmed with the New York Times. Lasky also said the FBI conducted database reviews and checks but was unable to identify the commenter.
“No additional information was found to positively identify the person who posted this comment,” Lasky said.
Update: This post has been updated with comments from Gov. Rick Scott and the Broward County sheriff.