In September 2017, the FBI was notified that a YouTube user bearing the name “Nikolas Cruz” had left a comment on the social media and video website that expressed a desire to become a “professional school shooter.” Ben Bennight is the YouTuber who emailed his concerns to the FBI on a tip line after “Nikolas Cruz” left the ominous statement on one of his videos. The comment said, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

Bennight said he was immediately contacted by the local FBI office. The resident of Mississippi, Bennight met with federal agents on the very next day in his office after he made his report. However, he told BuzzFeed News, “That was the last I heard from them.”

It was on Wednesday that Nikolas Cruz,19, was arrested in Parkland, Florida, for the shooting deaths of 17 people in a murderous rampage at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, north of Miami, Florida.Cruz, who had been expelled and banned from the high school last year because of disciplinary problems, possessed a legally-purchased AR-15 rifle and several magazines. He entered the school close to the time of the afternoon dismissal and began firing. One of the victims was an athletic coach who tried to shield students with his own body. Cruz is now under arrest and charged with murder.

YouTuber Bennight was contacted by the FBI after the shooting. On Wednesday, after the shooting unfolded in Florida, Bennight received a voice mail from FBI Special Agent Ryan Furr. The message said:  “I think we spoke with you in the past about a complaint that you made about someone making a comment on your YouTube channel. I just wanted to follow up with you on that and ask you a question with something that’s come up, if you wouldn’t mind giving me a ring.”

Later on Wednesday, Bennight received a visit from FBI agents who asked if he knew the alleged killer. When he told them he did not know Cruz, Bennight said that the agents left. There is no confirmation yet as to whether the Nikolas Cruz who left the frightening comments on YouTube is the same who is charged with the mass murder in Florida.

Bennight emailed a screenshot of the comment by “Nikolas Cruz” to what he thought was an FBI tip line, but the email address was invalid, he said. He later followed the email with a phone call to the FBI. Bennight said he followed up with a phone call to the FBI. The comment on YouTube has been pulled down.

Bennight’s conversation in Mississippi with FBI field agents “was the last contact he had with the FBI until Wednesday,” he told CNN, until Wednesday. “I saw the story kind of go across my newsfeed but I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it,” he told CNN. “But when the FBI said it was the same name the first thing that went through my mind was, ‘Wow, I hope you were at least watching this guy that I alerted you to months ago.'”


 

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Spero News writer 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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