Parkland school mass shooter makes first live court appearance
Nikolas Cruz pulled a rifle on his mother, dissected a live bird on her kitchen table, stole her money after she died to buy rifles, and expressed a desire to kill people on several occasions, a tipster who has not been publicly identified told the FBI on Jan. 5. She also said she worried Cruz might shoot up a school.
It was the second tip of that nature that the bureau received about Cruz, officials told Senate Judiciary Committee staff on Friday. And despite connecting the two reports, the bureau did nothing with the tip.
Cruz would go on to commit the deadliest school shooting in Florida history.
Last week, the FBI apologized for fumbling the tip, the details of which were unknown at the time. The Herald on Friday obtained a transcript of the 13-minute call, in which a woman close to Cruz described the 19-year-old as having a history of violent outbursts, mental illness and “the mental capacity of a 12- to 14-year-old.”
To the caller, it was not a matter of if Cruz was going to do something terrible, but when. “Something is going to happen,” she said. “He’s going to explode.”
Despite the dire warnings and the FBI’s awareness of a September 2017 tip also labeling Cruz as a potential “school shooter,” bureau officials said the call center intake specialist and a supervisor decided not to take further investigative action after the call, according to the office of Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, the committee chairman, who requested Friday’s briefing. As a result, the bureau did not open a counterterrorism inquiry this January or contact local law enforcement officials, the staff was told.
The tipster pointed the FBI to several social media accounts, including one called “CRAZYNIKOLAS,” where Cruz had posted pictures of his guns and mutilated animals and threatening comments such as, “I want to kill people.” He also wrote about killing himself, said the woman, who said she made the call to clear her conscience because she feared something might happen, like Cruz “getting into a school and just shooting the place up.”
A month later, Cruz confirmed the caller’s worst fears when he went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School armed with an AR-15 rifle and killed 14 students and three staff members.
A preliminary investigation linked the January tip to a separate, September 2017 call to the FBI about a YouTube comment in which Cruz wrote, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” bureau officials told Senate Judiciary Committee staff on Friday.
During the briefing, the FBI said it opened a counterterrorism inquiry after learning of Cruz’s post, but closed it on Oct. 11, 2017, because it couldn’t positively identify the user, “nikolas cruz.” An official from Google — the company that owns YouTube — countered, saying to Friday’s panel that the FBI never requested information to help identify the post’s author. According to committee staff, the Google representative also said that if the FBI had done so, the tech company could have confirmed that the former Douglas student posted it.
In the transcript, the woman stated she called the FBI after local law enforcement had not followed up on warning calls she made along with a cousin of Cruz’s mother. The cousin, Katherine Blaine, called the Broward Sheriff’s Office in 2017 to ask officers to take away Cruz’s guns. Blaine could not be reached for comment.
In a rambling monologue, the woman told stories about Cruz’s erratic behavior, apparently trying to convince the person who took the call that these were credible threats. Among them were assertions that he had pulled a gun on his mother — with no other details. The caller also said that after Cruz’s mother had died, the young man used her debit card to withdraw money that he then used to buy guns — including a rifle he bought online and had delivered.
The woman said she had tried to reach out to Cruz, who posted “Leave me the F alone” on one of his Instagram accounts.
The transcript of the FBI tip also gave some insight into Cruz’s relationship with James and Kimberly Snead, the couple that took him in after he was kicked out of his late mother’s friend’s house after refusing to get rid of his gun. The tipster said Cruz originally made friends with the Sneads’ son, and when the family took him in, they allowed him to keep his guns.
James Snead, she said, had even offered to help Cruz invest his inheritance, which he would begin to receive when he turned 21.
“He doesn’t know Nikolas from a hole in the wall,” the caller said in reaction to the offer. She said Cruz “gets crazy” about anyone handling his money. “He’s not going to give it to this man to invest. He’s going to buy guns,” she said.