The FBI admitted Friday that officers failed to follow protocol after they received a tip just last month that Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz had a “desire to kill people.”
The tip, received on Jan. 5, 2018, was the second the bureau had received about a “Nikolas Cruz” in a little over three months. And yet neither one prevented the 19-year-old with violent ideations from legally buying an AR-15 and carrying out the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook.
A person close to Nikolas Cruz reported the tip to the FBI’s Public Access Line and “provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting,” the FBI said in a statement Friday.
“Under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life,” the statement continued. “We have determined that these protocols were not followed. The information was not provided to the Miami Field Office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time.”
A day earlier, Special FBI Agent Rob Lasky, who oversees Broward County, where the school is located and where Cruz was a student last year, revealed that the bureau had received an earlier tip, in September 2017. Someone on YouTube with the name “Nicholas Cruz” had replied on another user's post, “I’m going to become a professional school shooter.”
Ben Bennight, a Mississippi bail bondsman and video blogger, noticed the comment under one of his videos and immediately reported it to YouTube and the FBI’s Mississippi field office. But after interviewing Bennight and searching public records databases under what’s called a “simple assessment,” the agents concluded that they didn’t have probable cause to open up a preliminary investigation into the tip, the next step up after an assessment, according to Lasky.
YouTube also removed the comment from its site.
“We are still investigating the facts,” FBI Director Chris Wray said in a statement Friday. “I am committed to getting to the bottom of what happened in this particular matter, as well as reviewing our processes for responding to information that we receive from the public.”