FBI says it failed to investigate tip on Florida suspect

Posted: Updated:

By KELLI KENNEDY, CURT ANDERSON and TAMARA LUSH
Associated Press

PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) - The FBI received a tip last month that the suspect in the Florida school shooting had a "desire to kill" and access to guns and could be plotting an attack, but agents failed to investigate, the agency said Friday. Florida Gov. Rick Scott called for the FBI's director to resign because of the missteps.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the shooting that killed 17 people Wednesday was a "tragic consequence" of the FBI's failure and ordered a review of the Justice Department's processes. He said it's now clear that the nation's premier law enforcement agency missed warning signs.

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.

A person close to Cruz called the FBI's tip line on Jan. 5 and provided information about Cruz's weapons and his erratic behavior, including his disturbing social media posts. The caller was concerned that Cruz could attack a school.

In a statement, the agency acknowledged that the tip should have been shared with the FBI's Miami office and investigated, but it was not. The startling admission came as the agency was already facing criticism for its treatment of a tip about a YouTube comment posted last year. The comment posted by a "Nikolas Cruz" said, "Im going to be a professional school shooter."

The FBI investigated the remark but did not determine who made it.

The 19-year-old Cruz has been charged with killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, north of Miami.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the agency, which received an average of 2,101 calls to the tip line each day in 2017, was still reviewing its missteps on the January tip. He said he was "committed to getting to the bottom of what happened," as well as assessing the way the FBI responds to information from the public.

"We have spoken with victims and families and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy," Wray said in the statement.

Florida's governor sharply criticized the federal law enforcement agency Friday, calling the FBI's failure to take action "unacceptable."

"Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn't going to cut it," Scott said. "... The families will spend a lifetime wondering how this could happen, and an apology will never give them the answers they desperately need."

The FBI is already under intense scrutiny for its actions in the early stages of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. President Donald Trump and some congressional Republicans have seized on what they see as signs of anti-Trump bias.

The president has repeatedly slammed the agency and its leaders, writing on Twitter that its reputation was in "tatters."

On Friday evening, Trump visited a Florida hospital where he greeted medical staff and thanked the doctors, nurses and first responders who helped the shooting victims. He told reporters he also met with some of the victims who are still hospitalized. He later met with members of the Broward County Sheriff's office and local law enforcement, including Coconut Creek Police Officer Mike Leonard, who said he was the one who apprehended Cruz.

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.

A day earlier, details of Wednesday's attack emerged , showing how the assailant moved through the school in just minutes before escaping with the same students he had targeted.

Cruz jumped out of an Uber car and walked toward building 12 of the school, carrying a black duffel bag and a black backpack. He slipped into the building, entered a stairwell and extracted a rifle from his bag, authorities said. He shot into four rooms on the first floor then went upstairs and shot a single victim on the second floor.

He ran to the third floor, where according to a timeline released by the Broward County Sheriff's Office, three minutes passed before he dropped the rifle and backpack, ran back down the stairs and quickly blended in with panicked, fleeing students.

Florida State Sen. Bill Galvano, who visited the third floor, said authorities told him it appeared that Cruz tried to fire point-blank out the third-floor windows at students as they were leaving the school, but the high-impact windows did not shatter.

The sheriff clarified Friday that Cruz never had a gas mask or smoke grenades during the attack, but officers did find a balaclava. Israel said his office would be investigating every one of the previous calls about Cruz to see how they were handled.

Authorities have not described any specific motive, except to say that Cruz had been kicked out of the 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.

____

Lush reported from St. Petersburg, Florida. John Mone and Associated Press Writer Sadie Gurman in Washington contributed to this report.

____

Follow the AP's complete coverage of the Florida school shooting here: https://apnews.com/tag/Floridaschoolshooting .

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • New Jersey SlideshowsSlideshowsMore>>

  • Guide: National park sites in the tristate area

    Guide: National park sites in the tristate area

    Statue of LibertyStatue of Liberty

    A guide to the national park sites and trails on Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York City and the Hudson Valley.

    A guide to the national park sites and trails on Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York City and the Hudson Valley.

  • Students organize walkouts over gun violence

    Students organize walkouts over gun violence

    Students from across the country streamed out of their schools on April 20, 2018 in the latest round of gun-control activism following the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.Students from across the country streamed out of their schools on April 20, 2018 in the latest round of gun-control activism following the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

    Students from across the country streamed out of their schools on April 20, 2018 in the latest round of gun-control activism following the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. The protests were chosen to line up with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

    Students from across the country streamed out of their schools on April 20, 2018 in the latest round of gun-control activism following the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. The protests were chosen to line up with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

  • Photos: Devils 2018 playoffs

    Photos: Devils 2018 playoffs

    Wednesday, April 18 2018 5:53 PM EDT2018-04-18 21:53:12 GMT

    A series of photos of the New Jersey Devils in the 2018 NHL playoffs.

    A series of photos of the New Jersey Devils in the 2018 NHL playoffs.

sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."