The FBI received a tip in January that Nikolas J. Cruz, the suspect in Wednesday’s mass murder of 17 persons in Florida, had not only a “desire to kill” and access to weapons, but was also possibly plotting an attack. However, the FBI failed to investigate the report. On January 5, a person reported on Cruz’s firearms and erratic behavior, including his social media posts. The caller to the FBI expressed concern that Cruz was capable of carrying out an attack at a school.

The FBI acknowledged on Friday that the report should have been shared with the agency’s office in Miami for follow-up. This came after it was revealed soon after the deadly attack by the 19-year-old Cruz that the agency had received reports in September of disturbing social media posts. While the FBI questioned a YouTube vlogger in September about a comment attributed a person using the handle “Nikolas Cruz,” which said, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” it did not determine who made the comment.

Fielding criticism over the agency’s inaction, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the bureau is examining the steps taken since the January tip was received. Wray said that he is “committed to getting to the bottom of what happened,” and will look into how the FBI interacts with the public. In a statement, Wray said, “We have spoken with victims and families and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy.”

Cruz is facing charges of premeditated murder in the shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, north of Miami, on Wednesday. He had been expelled from the school in 2017 because of disciplinary issues. After his adoptive mother died in November, he was taken in by a family who did not know of his troubled past. On Wednesday, he took an Uber ride to the school close to the time of dismissal, carrying a duffle bag in which he carried an AR-15 style rifle and several magazines. At about 2:30 p.m., Cruz entered the campus and started firing. After unleashing his deadly fusilade, he left the school while seeking to blend in with other students. He was arrested in a nearby neighborhood without incident on the same day.

According to reports, before Cruz was banned from the campus in 2017, he was prohibited from carrying a backpack to school. There are reports that he was known to bring knives to school. His rifle was legally purchased, and he had frequently posted photos of his various weapons on social media. When he descended from his Uber ride on the day of the shooting, he brought a black duffel bag and a black backpack. When someone inside the school spotted him and recognized him as a troubled former student, he radioed a co-worker before hearing gunshots seconds later. 

Once inside the building, Cruz moved “purposefully,” according to a witness, and entered a stairwell where he pulled out his rifle from the bag. He fired into four rooms on the first floor of the school, and returned to fire again into two of the rooms. Cruz went to the second floor and shot one person there before running up to the third floor. It was there that he dropped the rifle and backpack and ran back downstairs to blend in with the fleeing students and faculty. 

Altogether, Cruz shot more than two dozen people, 17 fatally. After accomplishing the deed, he walked to a local Wal-Mart to buy himself a drink, and then walked to a McDonald’s. Less than one hour later, a deputy sheriff saw Cruz walking down a suburban street and pounced on him. Cruz did not resist. Arraigned on Thursday, Cruz remains in jail without bond.

The state of Florida is likely to demand the death penalty for Cruz.

Fake News

In much of the media, it was widely reported that shooting in Parkland, Florida, was the eighteenth incident involving gunfire at school in the U.S. so far this year. Among the outlets reporting this were Politico, CNBC, ABC, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The New York Daily News. The incorrect statistics were spread by the gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety, of which former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, is a co-founder. 

The Washington Post reported the statistic, but also noted: “That data point … includes any discharge of a firearm at a school — including accidents — as a ‘shooting.’ It also includes incidents that happened to take place at a school, whether students were involved or not.” By the criteria used by Everytown, no injuries need be reported and the shooting does not have to actually occur at a school. For Everytown, the gunfire must have been heard on campus or a bullet must have landed on campus.

Among the instances cited by Everytown for this year:

► At Grayson College Criminal Justice Center in Denison, Texas, a student fired an officer’s real firearm into a wall. The student thought it was a practice weapon. No deaths or injuries. 

► In Minnesota, a third-grade child discharged an officer’s pistol while the officer was seated. No deaths or injuries.  

► A veteran suffering traumatic brain injury and depression shot himself in a school parking lot in Michigan. Everytown removed this instance from their report later when it turned out that the school have been shuttered months ago. 

Of the 18 cases originally counted by Everytown, in only eight was anyone was injured or killed. Two were suicides. 

The board of Everytown consists of numerous politicians and luminaries. Among are former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former Sen. David Boren (R-Okla.), former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, and mutual fund founder Warren Buffet. 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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