FBI didn't follow up on tip about teen charged in school shooting

By Danielle Haynes  |  Updated Feb. 16, 2018 at 5:36 PM
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Feb. 16 (UPI) -- The FBI said Friday it did not follow proper protocols after receiving a tip in January about Nikolas Cruz's "desire to kill people" more than a month before he was arrested for shooting 17 people dead at a Florida high school.

The FBI's statement is one of a number of indicators prior to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that Cruz acted suspiciously or made threatening comments.

The bureau said "a person close to" Cruz contacted its Public Access Line to report "concerns" about him Jan. 5.

"The caller 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," an FBI statement said.

But the FBI did not follow up on the tip. Typically, the FBI would have assessed the potential threat, then sent the information to the FBI Miami field office.

"We have determined that these protocols were not followed for the information received by the PAL on Jan. 5. The information was not provided to the Miami field office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time," the statement added.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions responded to the FBI statement, saying "it is now clear" that the bureau missed "warning signs."

"We see the tragic consequences of those failures," he said.

Sessions said he ordered Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to conduct a review of the Department of Justice and FBI "to ensure that we reach the highest level of prompt and effective response to indications of potential violence that come to us."

"This will include possible consultation with family members, mental health officials, school officials, and local law enforcement," he said.

"We will make this a top priority. It has never been more important to encourage every person in every community to spot the warning signs and alert law enforcement. Do not assume someone else will step up -- all of us must be vigilant. Our children's lives depend on it."

Florida Gov. Rick Scott called on FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign.

"The FBI's failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable," he said in a statement. "Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn't going to cut it.

"We constantly promote 'see something, say something,' and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act. 'See something, say something' is an incredibly important tool and people must have confidence in the follow through from law enforcement. The FBI eirector needs to resign."

The FBI is the lead investigative agency into the Wednesday shooting.

"We are still investigating the facts," Wray said. "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."

The bureau also got a tip in September that might've been related.

Robert Lasky, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Miami office, said Thursday the bureau had been warned about a comment made on YouTube by a user with the name Nikolas Cruz.

"I'm going to be a professional school shooter," the comment said.

The FBI said it couldn't "positively identify" whether the YouTube comment came from the 19-year-old former Douglas student.

"No other information was included with that comment which would indicate a time, location or the true identity of the person who made the comment," Lasky said. "The FBI conducted database reviews, checks but was unable to further identify the person who actually made the comment."

During a Friday news briefing, Lasky apologized that protocol wasn't followed for the January tip. He said the bureau was attempting to determine who erred.

"We truly regret any additional pain this has caused," he said.

At the briefing, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said his office received about 20 calls about Cruz.

"Every one of these calls for service will be looked at and scrutinized," he said.

Israel also corrected some "misinformation" about the shooter, which had been relayed by Rep. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to CNN and MSNBC on Wednesday.

"The killer never was in possession of a gas mask or any type of smoke grenades," Israel said.

Israel said investigators did recover a balaclava, which is a ski mask with cutouts for the eyes.

Some students and neighbors of Cruz said they observed troubling behavior.

"'If you were to pick one person you might predict in the future would shoot up a school or do this, it would be this kid,'" John Crescitelli told the Miami Herald, quoting his son, Daniel, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Onetime neighbor Shelby Spano said Nikolas Cruz once threw eggs at her husband's car. Another time, he shot at another neighbor's chickens.

Cruz also had been expelled from the high school for an undisclosed reason, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said.

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