The horrifying news broadened two days after Nikolas Cruz, armed with an AR-15 entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and slaughtered 14 students and three teachers and injured several more.
In a stunning admission, the FBI announced Friday that a person close to Cruz contacted the department on Jan. 5 to report concerns about Cruz’s disturbing behavior. That’s six weeks ago. The person had done what we ask citizens to do: “If you see something; say something.”
Yet the Bureau did absolutely nothing with the information. Not a thing. It was an unforgivable lapse. And it became a deadly one.
“We have spoken with victims and families and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.
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Quickly, Florida Gov. Rick Scott called on Wray to resign. Yes, the governor is carrying water for his pal President Trump, jumping on the Bureau, and Mr. Wray, at the very time other Republicans, too, are badmouthing it, hoping to derail its role in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s relations with Russia. Still, someone should lose a job over this one. Not to mention that the bureau has certainly given the president ammunition for his FBI-baiting rants.
By admitting its error before it was discovered by outsiders, the FBI came clean and said it did not appropriately follow established protocols with the tip to its public line. Even more damning, agents didn’t bother to pass on the information to the Miami Field Office. So no further action was taken — until after Cruz opened fire and his name popped up again in the FBI’s files.
There’s no way to credibly say, “Oh, we’ll do better next time.”
The FBI also was warned in September about a school shooting threat from a YouTube user with Cruz’s name, according to a Mississippi video blogger. Ben Bennight said he reported the post to the FBI. It said: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” and it came from a user named Nikolas Cruz.
Bennight said FBI agents talked to him, but the agency said it could not track down the owner of the social media handle. Yet, Cruz flaunted his social-media persona; he definitely didn’t hide it.
It’s an infuriating act of negligence by a government agency charged with protecting Americans, and it came at such a painful human cost. The parents and loved ones of those killed must now also cope with knowing that maybe it could have all ended before the bloodshed, without families being torn apart. Just maybe.
If the Bureau had just dug a little further, it would have found that local law enforcement responded to Cruz’s former family home on 39 occasions over a seven-year period (this, before Cruz went to live with the parents of one of his few high school friends). Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said it wasn’t immediately clear why the officers had been called to the house.
Israel also defended the FBI. “Make no mistake about it America,” Israel said at a news conference. “The only person responsible is the shooter himself.”
That’s true, and in a country where such threats and risks and perils seem endless, there’s no telling how often the FBI has gotten it right. We have no doubt that agents’ hard work has thwarted domestic attacks, bombings, shootings and other mayhem planned by the sick and angry among us.
The regretful words “If only” haunt this tragedy. If only Cruz had received proper mental health treatment. If only the teenager couldn’t legally buy semi-automatic weapons. Now, we are left with one more: If only the FBI had done its job.