Portraits of the Douglas school shooting victims
The parents of Carmen Schentrup, a 16-year-old who was killed in the Parkland school shooting, filed a negligence lawsuit Friday against the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its mishandling of tips about the gunman.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida, claims damages but does not state a monetary amount. In it, Philip and April Schentrup allege that the FBI’s failures resulted in the death of their daughter and the 16 other students and staffers killed in the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County.
Nikolas Cruz, a former student at the school, carried out the massacre 40 days after an FBI phone operator failed to pass along a tip warning that Cruz wanted to kill people and “was going to slip into a school and start shooting the place up.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray admitted two days after the shooting that the FBI had failed to follow protocol by not reporting the tip to the bureau’s Miami Field Office for further investigation.
The parents of Jaime Guttenberg, 14, who was killed in the shooting, filed a negligence lawsuit against the FBI in November 2018. The families of some of the Parkland victims filed 22 negligence lawsuits in April against the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the local school district.
“If the FBI had complied with its mandatory obligations to investigate and intervene in Cruz’s plans to carry out a mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, Cruz would not have succeeded in carrying out his attack and Carmen Schentrup would not have been killed,” the legal complaint reads.
Cruz, who confessed to carrying out the worst school shooting in Florida history, made his fixation on weapons and violent imagery known to followers on social media beginning in 2015. The lawsuit details Cruz’s repeated interactions with local police, who knew of his possession of guns and violent history, and the attempts by those around him to notify law enforcement and, eventually, the FBI. He had stockpiled a small arsenal of weapons, including the assault-style rifle he would use to terrorize his old school.
Broward Sheriff’s Office received a report in 2016 that Cruz posted photos of himself with guns on social media and said he planned to shoot up his school, the lawsuit states. The following year, a family member called BSO asking that they remove his weapons. A few weeks later, the woman who took care of Cruz and his brother when their mother died in 2017, reported a fight involving Cruz to police and told the 911 operator that Cruz had left to retrieve a gun. She told police Cruz had once put a gun to the head of his mother and brother.
Cruz, who is facing 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder, made his intentions clear when he posted a comment on YouTube stating he would become a “professional school shooter.” An internet user emailed the FBI’s tip line about the comment in 2017, but the case was closed without passing the tip along to the Miami Field Office.
On Jan. 5, 2018 — 40 days before the shooting — a woman close to Cruz called the FBI’s tip line concerned that Cruz was going to shoot up a school.
He had guns, he wanted to kill people and he was acting erratically, the tipster said.
“I know he’s going to explode,” she said.
That information should have been “assessed as a potential threat to life,” the FBI later said.
“We have determined that these protocols were not followed for the information received by the PAL on January 5,” the FBI said. “The information was not provided to the Miami Field Office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time.”