- REUTERS/Joe Skipper
- A top FBI official briefed lawmakers on the red flags that were missed in the months leading up to the deadly mass shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida, last month.
- FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich told GOP Reps. Bob Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy that staffers never documented internal conversations held after they received strong information on an FBI tip line in January 2018 about the suspected gunman, Nikolas Cruz.
- Before that, agents at an FBI field office in Mississippi never contacted Google to get help positively identifying a YouTube user who wrote “I am going to be a professional school shooter” in the comments section of a video on the site in September 2017.
- The FBI is proposing new measures to strengthen oversight of the tip line and improve information-sharing between federal, state, and local law-enforcement.
FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich says the agency is taking steps to strengthen oversight of its tip line and improve communication between federal, state, and local offices after a number of failings that preceded the deadly mass shooting last month in Parkland, Florida.
Bowdich briefed Republican Reps. Bob Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy this week on new details about the red flags that were missed before the suspected gunman, Nikolas Cruz, opened fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, killing 17 people.
Gowdy, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, and Goodlatte, who heads the House Judiciary Committee, outlined some of the takeaways from their meeting with Bowdich in a joint press release published on Wednesday.
Among them, it notes that an internet tip reported to the FBI in September 2017 highlighted a YouTube account named “nikolas cruz,” which had written the comment, “I am going to be a professional school shooter,” in response to a video.
An FBI field office in Mississippi handled that tip. Staffers there never asked Google for help to positively identify the person behind the YouTube account after having determined that “the United States Attorney’s Office in that region was unlikely to agree to such a request.”
In January 2018, a person close to the Cruz family called in another tip to the FBI’s hotline, citing Nikolas Cruz’s troubling behavior on social media. According to the Wednesday press release, the call-taker who received the tip “did not ask any investigative standard, probing questions.”
The call-taker discussed the tip with a supervisor, but no one documented that conversation, according to the press release. The supervisor “decided not to pursue the matter further,” and local authorities in Parkland were not notified – even though the tipster said Parkland police were aware of Cruz. The case was closed.
The FBI previously acknowledged that it fell short in its response to the red flags concerning Cruz.
In addition to new measures to improve oversight of the FBI’s tip line, lawmakers also want to determine whether the agency has the “capability and authority” to screen social media postings for key phrases like “school shooting” that could help authorities investigate threats more efficiently.