The FBI revealed Thursday why it had not previously investigated suspected Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz, despite the fact that it received a tip about a YouTube user who went by the same name.
Cruz, 19, had a history of posting disturbing content to his social media accounts, and on Wednesday, YouTuber Ben Bennight posted a video to the platform claiming that in September 2017, a user named “Nikolas Cruz” commented on one of his previous videos.
“Im going to be a professional school shooter,” the comment read. At the time, Bennight took screenshots of the comment and alerted both the FBI and YouTube.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Lasky confirmed Thursday that the FBI had gotten a tip about the comment.
“In 2017 the FBI received information about a comment made on a YouTube channel,” Lasky told reporters at a news briefing. “The comment simply said, ‘I am going to be a professional school shooter.’”
However, they were unable to identify who the user responsible for the comment was.
“No other information was included with that comment which would indicate a time, location, or the true identity of the person who made the comment,” Lasky added. “The FBI conducted database reviews, checks, but was unable to further identify the person who actually made the comment.”
Later in the media briefing, Lasky was asked if the bureau could confirm that Cruz was indeed responsible for leaving the comment.
“We do not know if it is the same person,” Lasky responded, according to the Washington Examiner. “We did our database checks, we could not positively identify him. We‘re going back, we’re scrubbing the information, we’re looking at it again.”
The FBI’s failure to identify the user has raised questions about whether more could have been done to prevent Wednesday’s massacre, which left 17 people dead.
After Bennight told the FBI about the comment last year, agents with the bureau paid him a brief visit, but he didn’t hear anything from them after that.
“They came to my office the next morning and asked me if I knew anything about the person,” Bennight told BuzzFeed News. “I didn’t. They took a copy of the screenshot and that was the last I heard from them.”
Then, after Cruz allegedly opened fire with an AR-15 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida, Bennight got a phone call from the bureau.
“I think we spoke with you in the past about a complaint that you made about someone making a comment on your YouTube channel,” an FBI agent said in a voicemail. “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.”
According to tech and policy writer Greg Farenstein, at least in this case, it seems as though hindsight is 20/20.
“These days there’s a lot of first indicators before people cause harm to others,” Farenstein told KGO. “A large percentage of the entire world is on these platforms and combing through all that data is an enormous challenge.”
Cruz is currently facing charges for 17 counts of premeditated murder after he allegedly opened fire with an AR-15 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida.
He reportedly confessed to the crime.
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