Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday ordered an “immediate review” after it emerged that the FBI had not acted on a recent tip that Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz wanted to “kill people” and there was the “potential of him conducting a school shooting.”
In a statement, the FBI admitted to receiving a call on Jan. 5 from a person close to Cruz who contacted the FBI through its Public Access Line (PAL) tipline to express concerns about his erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts.
Cruz, 19, opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday, killing 17 people. He has reportedly confessed.
“Under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life,” the statement said. “We have determined that these protocols were not followed for the information received by the PAL on Jan. 5.”
“It is now clear that the warning signs were there and tips to the FBI were missed,” Sessions said in a Friday afternoon statement. “We see the tragic consequences of those failures.”
“The FBI in conjunction with our state and local partners must act flawlessly to prevent all attacks,” Sessions continued. “This is imperative, and we must do better. I have ordered the deputy attorney general to conduct an immediate review of our process here at the Department of Justice and FBI to ensure that we reach the highest level of prompt and effective response to indications of potential violence that come to us.”
The FBI concluded that the caller’s information was not forwarded to the Miami FBI field office, and that “no further investigation was conducted at the time.” FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau would review what had happened.
“We are still investigating the facts. 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 the statement. “It’s up to all Americans to be vigilant, and when members of the public contact us with concerns, we must act properly and quickly.”
He continued: “We have spoken with victims and families, and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy. All of the men and women of the FBI are dedicated to keeping the American people safe, and are relentlessly committed to improving all that we do and how we do it.”
Cruz had dozens of run-ins with law enforcement prior to Wednesday’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High dating back to 2010 — with one report saying deputies responded to his home more than 35 times in just six years.
Broward County deputies received at least 36 emergency 911 calls from 80th Terrace St. in Parkland – the suburban address where the teenager lived with his younger brother, Zachary, and their adoptive mother, Lynda, BuzzFeed reported.
The calls – dating as far back as 2010 and continuing until November 2016 – shed a light on two erratic and violent boys who repeatedly “threw items,” were “out of control” and fought with their mother and each other on an apparently regular basis.
“He is a deeply troubled young man; a child that has endured significant loss,” Gordon Weekes, chief assistant for Broward County’s public defender’s office, told reporters Thursday. “He fell between the cracks and we have to try to save him now.”
Despite the repeated calls to authorities, Cruz was never arrested – and was basically cleared as being “no threat to anyone or himself,” as one therapist said in a police report from Sept. 28, 2016.
In that particular call, the sheriff’s office said Nikolas and his mother were fighting over paperwork needed for him to get an ID card.
In their report, deputies detailed how the teen had been harming himself and had talked about buying a gun.
“He had been cutting his arms, his mother said, to get attention, as he learned it from an ex-girlfriend,” deputies said. “He has mentioned in the past that he would like to purchase a firearm.”
The therapist on scene, Jared Bienenfeld with Henderson Mental Health, and the deputies concluded there were “no signs of mental illness or criminal activity.”
And much like the calls before – which were placed due to reasons ranging from the brothers reportedly beating each other to Cruz, at the age of 12, threatening his mother and calling her a “useless b****” – law enforcement left without taking any further action.
A public information officer with the sheriff’s office could not verify the report to Fox News early Friday. The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to additional requests for comment.
Cruz wasn’t arrested until Valentine’s Day, when he allegedly walked into the high school with a gas mask, smoke grenades and multiple magazines of ammunition before firing an AR-15 at students and faculty members.
He was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday and is being held without bail.
In the aftermath of the attack, revelations about the teen’s alarming warning signs appeared to be repeatedly missed — despite the cop calls, a report to the FBI based on a social media posting, his former classmates expressing fear of him and a documented history of mental health issues.
“I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him,” Victoria Olvera, a 17-year-old junior at the school, told the Sun-Sentinel.
According to reports, Cruz and his brother both suffered from mental health issues, including ADHD and OCD, and took medication as treatment. Cruz’s lawyer said Thursday her client was “a broken human being” and the team was looking into an evaluation for autism. Nikolas had sought treatment at Henderson Mental Health Clinic and had previously attended a school for students with behavioral problems, BuzzFeed reported.
Despite these issues, Cruz was able to legally purchase the AR-15 he used in the mass shooting. Attorney Jim Lewis told the Sun-Sentinel that the teenager already owned the gun when he moved in with his friend’s family around Thanksgiving, after his mother’s November death.
“It was his gun,” Lewis said. “The family made him keep it in a locked gun cabinet in the house but he had a key.”
Trevor Hart, 16, who knew Cruz from his Spanish class at Marjory Stoneman, told the Sun-Sentinel the alleged killer seemed “a little off” and talked about shooting lizards, squirrels and frogs.
Cruz was expelled from Marjory Stoneman last year for “disciplinary problems,” with one report saying bullets were discovered in his backpack at one point.
One teacher told the Miami Herald that Cruz was banned from entering campus with a backpack.
Officials did not immediately say why Cruz was expelled.
An Instagram page apparently belonging to Cruz showed pictures of guns and knives. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said some of Cruz’s social media posts were “very, very disturbing.”
Additionally, the FBI confirmed Thursday the bureau received a tip this past September about a disturbing YouTube comment by a user named “Nikolas Cruz” that said, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”
Special Agent Rob Lansky, in charge of the FBI’s Miami division, said the agency investigated the comment, but said it could not identify the user who made the comment. He also said there was no connection found to South Florida.
“No other information was included in the comment which would indicate a particular time, location or the true identity of the person who posted the comment,” the FBI said in a subsequent statement.
On Thursday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said it was “inexcusable” that the FBI had failed to follow protocols that could have prevented Wednesday’s shooting.
“The fact that the FBI is investigating this failure is not enough. Both the House and Senate need to immediately initiate their own investigations into the FBI’s protocols for ensuring tips from the public about potential killers are followed through,” the Republican senator said in a statement.
He continued: “Lawmakers and law enforcement personnel constantly remind the public that ‘if you see something, say something.’ In this tragic case, people close to the shooter said something, and our system utterly failed the families of seventeen innocent souls.”
Also Friday: Florida Gov. Rick Scott called for Wray to resign. “We constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI,” Scott said in a statement. “And the FBI failed to act. ‘See something, say something’ is an incredibly important tool and people must have confidence in the follow through from law enforcement. The FBI Director needs to resign.”
Fox News’ Matt Richardson, Ryan Gaydos, Elizabeth Zwirz, Shira Bush and The Associated Press contributed to this report.