PARKLAND, FL — In a closed-door briefing Tuesday with members of the House Judiciary and Oversight committee, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich admitted that investigators had received two prior warnings regarding alleged Parkland high school shooter Nikolas Cruz.
Cruz, who officials say killed 17 people and wounded dozens more during a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, reportedly posted multiple threats to commit a school shooting online.
In a summary released Wednesday, Bowdich cited two separate tips the FBI received, notifying them of Cruz’s comments, one in September 2017 and another in January 2018. Both tips, Bowdich admitted, were mishandled, including one in which a FBI call taker “did not ask any standard investigative probing questions.”
The first tipster to notify the FBI, Ben Bennight, says he saw a comment posted to his YouTube channel “BenTheBondsman” from a poster identifying himself as “nikolas cruz” which read:”I’m going to be a professional school shooter”. Bennight, a , a bail bondsman at AFAB Bail Bonds in D’Iberville, Mississippi, took a screenshot of the comment and emailed it to the FBI on Sept. 24, 2017.
Special Agent Rob Lasky, special agent in charge of Miami Division, confirmed Bennight’s report, but says investigators at the time were unable to track Cruz’s identity.
“In 2017, the FBI received information about a comment made on a YouTube channel,” Lasky said in a statement on February 15. “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. The FBI conducted database reviews, checks, but was unable to further identify the person who actually made the comment.”
On Jan. 5, 2018, a second tip, this time anonymous, called the FBI’s Public Access Line, located in Clarksburg, W.Va., to warn officials about Cruz. According to the FBI, the caller cited concerns about “Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”
According to Bowdich, officials failed to follow up on the call using proper protocol.
“Under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life,” said Bowdich. “The information was not provided to the Miami Field Office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time.”
The FBI is reviewing its handling of the case and has been directed to report its findings to Congress for follow up.