The FBI was told of a threat accused Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz made on YouTube last September but never contacted the company to track down its source, missing an early indicator, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said Friday.
Someone reported the online threat to the FBI and the bureau opened a counterterrorism investigation but closed it on Oct. 11 saying it never managed to identify the person behind the post.
It wasn’t until after last week’s school massacre that the FBI did track down the author and found it was the 19-year-old man now accused of slaying 17 people at his former high school, Mr. Grassley’s office said, after getting briefings from both the FBI and Google.
Google would have been able to help confirm the commentator’s identity if the FBI had followed up, Mr. Grassley’s office said.
The FBI also missed a crucial tip from a caller in January. The person described Mr. Cruz as “mentally ill with violent tendencies,” Mr. Grassley’s office said. The caller said Mr. Cruz mutilated small animals and had pulled a rifle on his late mother, and had threatened more violence.
“I want to kill people,” the caller recalled Mr. Cruz saying. The caller also said Mr. Cruz had used insurance money from his parents’ death to buy guns.
A preliminary investigation even linked the tip to the earlier YouTube tip, but the FBI did not investigate further, Mr. Grassley said.
The bureau didn’t respond to a request for comment Friday evening.
Mr. Grassley’s office said: “The FBI has dispatched officials to both field offices where the tips were received to investigate what went wrong and determine how processes can be improved to prevent future failures.”
The Judiciary Committee also said in conversations with congressional staffers Google has “acknowledged that it has a role to play in reviewing its social media sites for content that merits a referral to law enforcement.”
When the original YouTube post was made, it was flagged as spam and removed by the video’s owner. Mr. Grassley suggested YouTube create a way that comments can be flagged as threats of violence, which could elevate them for investigation. Google said it would consider the idea, Mr. Grassley’s office said.
Google didn’t respond to a request for comment.