The FBI failed to act on a tip in January from a person close to suspect Nikolas Cruz warning that he owned a gun and might carry out a school shooting, the bureau acknowledged Friday, an admission that prompted Gov. Rick Scott of Florida to call for the bureau's director to resign.
The bureau, which was already under considerable political pressure because of its investigation into President Donald Trump, faced calls for even more scrutiny after the massacre at the high school in Parkland, Fla.
Scott said that Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, should step down and that the bureau's failure to act on the tip about Cruz was "unacceptable."
"Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn't going to cut it," Scott said in a statement. "The FBI Director needs to resign."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had ordered his deputy attorney general -- the No. 2 law enforcement official in the country -- to review the bureau's handling of the matter.
"It is now clear that the warning signs were there and tips to the FBI were missed," Sessions said in a statement. "We see the tragic consequences of those failures."
He added, "The FBI in conjunction with our state and local partners must act flawlessly to prevent all attacks. This is imperative, and we must do better."
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida said that he will be in "close communication with the FBI" and said the FBI and Congress needed to conduct a full oversight investigation of the FBI's processes and procedures.
Click here for larger versions
Photos by The Associated Press
Photos by The Associated Press
Sen. Marco Rubio also asked for Congress to investigate how the FBI mishandled this tip.
In more evidence that there had been signs of trouble with the suspect, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a Friday news conference that his office had received more than 20 calls about Nikolas Cruz in the past few years.
The FBI's revelation comes at a particularly difficult time for the bureau, which for the past several months has faced relentless criticism regarding political bias in its handling of investigations of both Trump and Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.
The FBI's admission that it did not act on a tip that Cruz had a "desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts," could open up a new avenue of attack for political opponents seeking to discredit the bureau's work.
The work of Robert Mueller, the special counsel's office overseeing the investigation into Russian election interference, has been the focus of much of the attacks on the bureau. After the shooting, conservative news media said that the FBI could have prevented the attack if it had not been spending so much time looking into Russian election interference.
On Jan. 5, a tipster reached out to the FBI regarding Cruz and advised of "the potential of him conducting a school shooting," the agency said in a statement.
The tip on Cruz came in to the FBI's general call line, where call takers process thousands of calls each day, some of them more serious than others. When the process works, the call taker records information from the tipster, runs basic database checks on the person at issue and -- if the matter is serious enough -- passes a package to agents in the field.
In this case, though, the call center never passed any information to agents, according to a federal law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The bureau knew the identity of the caller -- an adult -- and the tip involved a threat to life, meaning it should have been passed on, a federal law enforcement official said. The official said the bureau is still exploring why it was not, and preliminarily, do not believe the number of calls was the reason that it fell through the cracks.
The agency said the information from the caller should have been "assessed as a potential threat to life" and should have been forwarded to its Miami field office, "where appropriate investigative steps would have been taken."
"We have determined that these protocols were not followed for the information," the FBI said. "The information was not provided to the Miami Field Office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time."
"I am committed to getting to the bottom of what happened in this particular matter, as well as reviewing our processes for responding to information that we receive from the public," Wray said in a statement. "We have spoken with victims and families, and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy."
This is not the first time that the FBI has come under fire for being aware of a threat and failing to stop an attack. Congress criticized the bureau for failing to stop the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood in Texas, where the shooter was known to the FBI. The FBI also knew of one of the brothers who carried out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing but did not stop that attack.
After those fumbles, FBI investigators compared themselves to hockey goalies, who are fielding a relentless barrage of pucks. Sometimes, they said, they cannot keep things from making the net.
"The public expects the FBI to keep them safe, and in the overwhelming majority of the instances, the FBI does just that," said Lauren Anderson, a former top FBI official in New York.
While Anderson described the missed warning as a "tragic failure," she also said that the past 18 months have been extremely difficult for the FBI and that people should still have confidence in the bureau.
The tip appears to have been the second time the FBI was alerted about Cruz. A bail bondsman in Mississippi told the agency last September about a worrying comment left on his YouTube channel from a "nikolas cruz" saying "Im going to be a professional school shooter."
Agents from the FBI's Jackson, Miss., field office looked into the comment but could not identify who had posted it from database and open-source searches, the FBI said. The FBI was also reviewing what happened after the agents received the information.
On Friday evening, Trump met with victims of the school shooting who were recovering at a Florida hospital and praised the "incredible" work of doctors, nurses and first responders who helped the victims.
Also Friday, mourners gathered for the first funeral for a shooting victim, packing the Star of David chapel to remember 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff. From outside the chapel, other mourners strained to hear the voices chanting Jewish prayers and remembering the star soccer player as having "the strongest personality." She was also remembered as a creative writer with a memorable smile.
At a later funeral for 18-year-old Meadow Pollack, her father's angered boiled over. With more than 1,000 mourners including Scott packed into Temple K'ol Tikvah, Andrew Pollack looked down at the plain pine coffin of his daughter and yelled, "You killed my kid!" referring to Cruz.
Authorities have not described any specific motive, except to say that Cruz had been kicked out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which has about 3,000 students and serves an affluent suburb where the median home price is nearly $600,000. Students who knew him described a volatile teenager whose strange behavior had caused others to end friendships.
Information for this article was contributed by Katie Benner, Patricia Mazzei and Adam Goldman of The New York Times; by Kelli Kennedy, Curt Anderson, Tamara Lush and Sadie Gurman of The Associated Press; by Mark Berman, Matt Zapotosky, Renae Merle, Brian Murphy, Devlin Barrett, Emma Brown, David Nakamura, Julie Tate and William Wan of The Washington Post; and by Nafeesa Syeed of Bloomberg News.
Physician Igor Nichiporenko leads President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, on a visit to school shooting victims Friday at Broward Health North hospital in Pompano Beach, Fla.
A Section on 02/17/2018
Print Headline: FBI did not act on tip in Florida