The FBI was reportedly alerted to a threat posted on YouTube by Nikolas Cruz five months ago — but the bureau was unable to track down Cruz despite him having used his real name on the site when he allegedly made the threats.
NBC News reports that five months ago, the FBI was alerted to a threatening comment allegedly posted by Nikolas Cruz, the gunman behind the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It seems that the FBI failed to follow up on the comment or were unable to track Cruz down despite the gunman using his real name as his YouTube username. In September, the YouTube user with the username “nikolas cruz” wrote “Im going to be a professional school shooter” on a video uploaded by Mississippi bail bondsman Ben Bennight.
Bennight was worried about the comment and promptly contacted the FBI to report it. A day later Bennight was interviewed in person by the FBI, but Cruz was never contacted over the comment as the FBI was allegedly unable to identify him — despite his full name being plainly visible alongside his comments. After the recent shooting, Bennight was bewildered at Cruz’s comments on his YouTube channel, “Out of all the people in the country, why me? Why my channel?” said Bennight. He added, “I hope people learn that when somebody throws up red flags, that they need to pay more attention to them and not just … scoff ’em off.”
Bennight has posted a video about his interactions with the FBI on the case:
Robert Lasky, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami division, discussed the bureau’s failure to follow up on Cruz’ comments saying, “No other information was included with that comment, which would indicate a time, location or the true identity of the person who made that comment.” He continued, “The FBI conducted database reviews, checks, but was unable to further identify the person who actually made the comment.”
FOX 61 has reported other comments from what appears to be the same account include similarly violent threats on videos across the website. Some of the comments include “I whana shoot people with my AR-15” (sic) and “I wanna die Fighting killing sh** ton of people.” It would seem that the comments were posted by the same account reported by Bennight, or at least an account with the exact same name as the one the FBI was made aware of.
In other cases involving threats on the Internet, the FBI took part in active investigations including discovering the users behind anonymous accounts. For example, the FBI has released their records on their investigation of #GamerGate, a consumer revolt against left-wing authoritarian politics in gaming that included alleged internet threats from both sides.
However, a quick search of social media would have uncovered the Instagram account of Nikolaz Cruz, where he brandishes a gun and wears a mask, the same Cruz who had been expelled from school for disciplinary reasons. Within approximately one hour of the shooting, users across 4Chan and Reddit had found Cruz’s social media accounts including multiple personal details. If reports are accurate, it seems that the FBI was unable to investigate Cruz as thoroughly as random users on an Internet forum.
According to one of Cruz’s classmates, Eddie Bonilla, Cruz “threatened to bring the guns to school multiple times.” Other students apparently “threw jokes around that he’d be the one to shoot up the school.” Broward County Sheriff, Scott Israel, stated that law enforcement officials have heard of “copycat threats made today at other schools.” A South Carolina man was arrested after posting a photo to Snapchat with the caption “Round 2 of Florida tomorrow” while brandishing a rifle.