The FBI admitted on Friday that they had been warned about Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who has confessed to the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday, and yet failed to act. In a statement, the FBI says it received a tip on January 5 from “a person close to” Cruz who had concerns about his behavior; the person is not identified further. This individual called the FBI tip line and informed them “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 further admits that a warning of this magnitude should have sparked an investigation and been treated “as a potential threat to life.” This would set off a series of protocols in the local FBI office, but they were “not followed” and no further inquires were made about the information they had received.
The tip came to the FBI’s general call line, which the Washington Post reports receives thousands of calls per day; some are predictably more serious than others. The tip line works by recording information from the caller, running basic database checks and then, if the matter is deemed serious enough, passed off to agents in the field. But in this specific case, a federal law enforcement official told the Post that the call center did not pass on any information to agents. The tipster did not describe a specific attack with a time and place, but did, however, “provide specific information on him and warning signs.”
“We are still investigating the facts,” Christopher A. Wray, the FBI director, said in the statement. “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.”
Rick Scott, the Governor of Florida, railed on the FBI for not acting sooner. “Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn’t going to cut it,” Scott said in a statement. “An apology will never bring these 17 Floridians back to life or comfort the families who are in pain. The families will spend a lifetime wondering how this could happen, and an apology will never give them the answers they desperately need.” Scott called on the FBI director to resign.
This admission from the FBI comes as it was already under fire for yet another tip the bureau had received about Cruz. The tip the FBI is referring to in the statement released today came in January; on Thursday, BuzzFeed News spoke to YouTube blogger and bail bondsman Ben Bennight who says he contacted the FBI himself after spotting a disturbing comment in one of his videos supposedly written by Cruz. "I'm going to be a professional school shooter," the comment read. According to Bennight, he was interviewed by the FBI on September 25, but had not heard anything from them since until about 30 minutes after Cruz was in police custody. The FBI left Bennight a voicemail asking to follow up on his initial tip; he also received an in-person visit, but Bennight did not know who the commenter was, so nothing came of the FBI’s attempts to contact him.
The shooting has left 17 people dead and 14 more wounded. Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder; he has since confessed to the crime to the police.