- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2018

The FBI said Friday it failed to follow up on a tip last month that Nikolas Cruz, the suspect in the shooting deaths of 17 people at a Florida high school on Valentine’s Day, had a gun, wanted to kill people and had the potential of conducting a school shooting.

And in a rebuke of the FBI, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the screw-up had “tragic consequences.” The governor of Florida called on the FBI director to resign.

An unknown caller to the FBI “provided information about Mr. 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.

They said the tip came on Jan. 5 from a person “close” to Mr. Cruz, the 19-year-old shooting suspect at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday. The agency said the person contacted the public access line to voice concerns about Mr. Cruz’s behavior and desire to kill people.

“Under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life,” the statement said.

The FBI said under its own protocols, the tip should have been referred to the Miami field office, “where appropriate investigative steps would have been taken.”

But that didn’t happen.

Special agent Robert Lasky, who heads the FBI’s Miami field office, said his office was never informed of the tips sent in to the FBI headquarters about Mr. Cruz’s behavior.

“On behalf of myself and the over 1,000 employees of the Miami field office we truly regret any additional pain that this has caused,” Mr. Lasky said.

He added that some of those who work in the office have children who attended Majory Stoneman Douglas.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel also said that his department received calls on Cruz several times in the past few years.

“We’ve had approximately 20 calls for service over the past few years,” Mr. Israel said.

He added that the school’s resource deputy on campus was present at the school, and was armed, but never encountered the shooter.

He also said that the gunman did not have a gas mask or smoke grenades, which had been previously reported. He said that Cruz wore a face mask with openings for the eyes.

“We are still investigating the facts,” said FBI Director Christopher A. Wray. “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.”

Mr. Sessions said he has ordered Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to conduct an investigation into what happened.

“It is now clear that the warning signs were there, and tips to the FBI were missed,” the attorney general said. “We see the tragic consequences of those failures.”

He said the FBI and its state and local partners “must act flawlessly to prevent all attacks.”

“This is imperative, and we must do better,” the attorney general said. “I have ordered the deputy attorney general to conduct an immediate review of our process here at 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 includes more than just an error review but also a review of how we respond. This will include possible consultation with family members, mental health officials, school officials, and local law enforcement.”

He pledged that the inquiry will be 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,” Mr. Sessions said. “Do not assume someone else will step up — all of us must be vigilant. Our children’s lives depend on it.”

The embarrassing revelation comes as law enforcement officials have been pleading with the public, “if you see something, say something” about teens who could be a danger to others.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, called on Mr. Wray to resign.

“The FBI’s failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable,” Mr. Scott said. “Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn’t going to cut it.”

He said 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,” Mr. Scott said. “We constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act.”

The governor said ” ‘see something, say something’ is an incredibly important tool, and people must have confidence in the follow through from law enforcement. The FBI director needs to resign.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, called the FBI’s mistake “inexcusable,” and called for congressional investigations.

“The fact that the FBI is investigating this failure is not enough,” Mr. Rubio said in a statement. “Both the House and Senate need to immediately initiate their own investigations into the FBI’s protocols for ensuring tips from the public about potential killers are followed through.”

He added, “Lawmakers and law enforcement personnel constantly remind the public that ‘if you see something, say something.’ In this tragic case, people close to the shooter said something, and our system utterly failed the families of seventeen innocent souls.”

The FBI was already under fire for its handling of an incident last September in which someone using the name “nikolas cruz” posted a comment on a YouTube account that said “Im going to be a professional school shooter.” FBI agents interviewed the person in Mississippi who alerted them to the comment, but the agency said it could not determine who posted the comment or where the person was living.

News reports show that Mr. Cruz had scores of run-ins with law enforcement dating back to 2010 — with one report saying sheriff’s deputies responded to his home more than 35 times in just six years.

Broward County Sheriff’s deputies received at least 36 emergency 911 calls from the address in Parkland, Florida, where Mr. Cruz lived with his younger brother, Zachary, and their adoptive mother, Lynda, BuzzFeed reported.

In a police report from Sept. 28, 2016, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida responded to a 911 call about Mr. Cruz fighting with his mother over paperwork to obtain an ID card for him.

The report stated that Mr. Cruz suffered from mental illness, and that a therapist and an investigator from the Department of Children and Families were also at the house with deputies.

“He has been cutting his arms, his mother said, to get attention, as he learned it from an ex-girlfriend,” the report says. “He has mentioned in the past that he would like to purchase a firearm.”

But mental health therapist Jared Bienenfeld “deemed Nikolas to be no threat to anyone or himself at this present time,” according to the report.

The deputy and the investigator “saw no signs of mental illness or criminal activity and left without incident,” the report concluded.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

• Sally Persons can be reached at spersons@washingtontimes.com.

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