FBI says it failed to properly investigate January tip on teen accused in Florida school shooting
People arrive for the funeral of Alyssa Alhadeff at the Star of David Funeral Chapel in North Lauderdale, Fla., Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. (Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)


A person close to the teenager accused of killing 17 people at a South Florida high school this week called FBI officials in early January to report concerns about the teen, but the agency failed to properly investigate the warning, the FBI said 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. It’s up to all Americans to be vigilant, and when members of the public contact us with concerns, we must act properly and quickly,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.


The agency said proper “protocols were not followed” in investigating Nikolas Cruz, who authorities say has confessed to stalking the high school’s hallways, gunning down students and teachers.

A law enforcement official said calls to the tip line are handled at the FBI’s call center in West Virginia. Approximately 2,100 calls a day go to the center.

The caller indicated that Cruz had recently purchased firearms and had threatened a family member, the official said, adding that the caller knew Cruz’s address and said he had been posting disturbing messages on social media accounts and that he had a desire to kill.


“Clearly the person was afraid [he] was going to harm somebody,” said the official, who requested anonymity to speak freely about the investigation.


There was a back-and-forth conversation between the tipster and the FBI employee who took the call, the official said, noting that there were enough specifics provided that the call center employee should have written a report and sent it to the Miami field office for investigation. That didn’t happen.


Wray said the agency has spoken “with victims and families, and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy.”


“All of the men and women of the FBI are dedicated to keeping the American people safe, and are relentlessly committed to improving all that we do and how we do it,” Wray said.

It was the second time the FBI apparently failed to follow up on Cruz.


“Im going to be a professional school shooter,” a YouTube commenter identifying himself as Nikolas Cruz wrote beneath another user’s video in September. The video’s poster, Ben Bennight, who lives in Alabama, called the FBI to warn them. At a news briefing in Florida on Thursday, Robert Lasky, the FBI special agent in charge, confirmed that the bureau had investigated that comment. But he said agents couldn’t identify the person behind the comment and never linked him to South Florida.


Cruz, who was expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year, told investigators that he walked the hallways of the school Wednesday afternoon, shooting students and teachers with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, a report from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said.


On Friday, as survivors and those who lost loved ones in the attack began attending funerals, investigators continued to piece together a timeline of events that took place during one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history.


Cruz, 19, on Thursday was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. A district court judge ordered Cruz held without bond.


Law enforcement has not offered a motive, but has said that Cruz was able to blend in with other students as he fled the school following the shooting. He visited a nearby Subway and McDonald’s before police found him walking on a sidewalk in nearby Coral Springs, Fla.


Sheriff’s officials Friday were escorting students and staff back to the school to retrieve vehicles left in the parking lot as the investigation at the scene continued.


President Trump is scheduled to travel to Florida on Friday and has indicated he plans to meet with victims of the tragedy this weekend while he visits his resort in Palm Beach, which is about 40 miles from Parkland. Trump in recent days has called the gunman “mentally disturbed,” and has offered condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the shooting.


A funeral was held earlier in the day for shooting victim Alyssa Alhadeff, 14. Before their daughter’s funeral, Alhadeff’s parents made impassioned pleas.


“You need to help us now, we need security now for all these children who have to go to school. We need action,” the girl’s mother, Lori Alhadeff, said on CNN, addressing some of her comments to Trump and lawmakers. “What if it was your child that was shot three times in the head, in the heart and the hand?


Ilan Alhadeff, the girl’s father said, “It’s the time to talk about it today and the next day and the day after until this is resolved.”


Before a community vigil that drew hundreds late Thursday, Alhadeff’s mother had appealed to Trump, noting she had just finished making her daughter’s funeral arrangements.


“Please do something! Do something. Action! We need it now! These kids need safety now!” she screamed into a microphone on CNN.


“How do we allow a gunman to come into our children’s school? How do they get through security? What security is there?” Alhadeff yelled. “The gunman — a crazy person — just walks right into the school, knocks down the window of my child’s door and starts shooting. Shooting her! And killing her!”


It was the nation’s deadliest school attack since a gunman targeted an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., more than five years ago.


Speaking at the memorial late Thursday, Fred Guttenberg struggled to come to terms with the loss of his 14-year-old daughter Jaime.


“I sent her to school yesterday,” Guttenberg said. “She was supposed to be safe. My job is to protect my children and I sent my kid to school.”


“What is unfathomable is that Jaime took a bullet and is dead,” he told the crowd. “I don’t know what I do next… We are broken.”


Staff writers Hennessy-Fiske reported from Parkland, Lee from Los Angeles and Tanfani from Washinngton. Staff writer Matt Pearce in Los Angeles contributed to this report.


10:55 a.m.: This article was updated with information from a law enforcement official on the call to the FBI.

9:46 a.m.: This article was updated to report the FBI said it failed to properly investigate a January warning about Nikolas Cruz.

This article was published at 8:25 a.m.

Courtesy: L A Times


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