Not too long ago, I wrote about how a potential mass shooting was thwarted. It was shortly after the horrible events in Las Vegas, when people were discussing solutions to this problem. A man by the name of David Kenneth Smith had been apprehended. The discovery of weapons in his home led to charges. Authorities acted quickly and possibly prevented a terrible crime.
Police were able to move into action, thanks to the tips from worried citizens. Staff members of the man’s former school had received threats. Smith also posted videos on YouTube that laid out his thoughts on mass shootings. In a word, he was in favor of them.
After the events in Parkland, FL, people spoke out about the alleged killer. Students who knew Nikolas Cruz were sadly unsurprised that he was behind the shooting. He had a dark reputation within the community. Some even said “everyone predicted” he would do it.
The only people who seemed surprised were his parents, who never confronted their growing concerns or ignored them. Unfortunately, parents and close relatives are the last people to trust on these matters. Either they will refuse to believe their kid is sick or they will cover it up to protect them.
It’s obvious that Nikolas Cruz was a troubled young man. Much has been said about the events that unfolded during the shooting. Some people blame the local sheriff and his deputies who did not enter the school to engage the shooter. Others have vowed that armed teachers would be a viable solution to this ongoing problem. But both topics—police intervention and armed teachers—are for worst-case scenarios. Does anyone stop and think about preventing these shootings altogether?
We might not be able to untangle the various reasons people like James Hodgkinson, Stephen Paddock, and Nikolas Cruz commit these mass murders. But we sure as hell know how to prevent them. In the case of David Kenneth Smith, at least a few people alerted authorities. Those authorities took action, using the law to apprehend an obviously sick and dangerous man.
As it turns out, the same could have happened in Parkland, FL. A man like Cruz had a reputation among students. People knew he was dangerous and were very worried about it. News has leaked that, on more than one occasion, people did inform—not local police—but the FBI. So why wasn’t Nikolas stopped?
The mass shooting has exposed a shocking breach in the very agency created to protect Americans.
Top House Republicans said Wednesday that a senior FBI official had briefed lawmakers on the agency's failure to respond to warnings about the teenager accused of carrying out a deadly shooting at a South Florida high school last month.
Acting FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich met with lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary committees Tuesday to discuss the missteps, which were revealed in the days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (The Hill)
Bowdich admitted that the FBI received a tip about Nikolas Cruz, an entire month before the shooting. There was ample time to start an investigation into the matter. Normally, the FBI takes tips about crime very seriously. If there is reason to believe that someone is about to harm others, the FBI—like most law enforcement—is obligated to respond. This is not a “maybe if they feel like it” sort of issue. It’s the law. They have to follow up.
That tip "should have been assessed as a potential threat to life," the FBI said at the time, but the warnings were never investigated further.
Bowdich told lawmakers on Tuesday that the call to a tip line provided enough information to justify an FBI probe into the matter, lawmakers said, though information was not passed on to the agency's Miami field office. (The Hill)
A simple probe would have revealed a troubled man with easy access to firearms. That would have been enough for the FBI to take steps to either arrest Cruz or deal with him in such a way to prevent a crime.
But maybe a single tip isn’t enough. Maybe they had better things to do—like push a witch hunt against the President. Given that the tip was from “a person close to Cruz,” the information wasn’t random. This wasn’t a tip from a stranger, looking to start trouble. This was from someone that knew Cruz and was understandably worried.
Again, you might say that wasn’t enough. The FBI isn’t psychic! It appears that this wasn’t the first warning they received about a Nikolas Cruz.
Bowdich also said that the employee who took the January phone call was able to connect the warning to another tip from September regarding a threatening YouTube comment. That comment, posted under the username "nikolas cruz," read, "I am going to be a professional school shooter." (The Hill)
So, the person who got the tip was able to connect it with an earlier warning, but did nothing? The information wasn’t passed onto the Miami field office (which, by the way, is shockingly close to Parkland, FL).
Congress is understandably demanding answers. All of America should be. In earlier times, this would have created outrage among citizens. How could the Federal Bureau of Investigations neglect what they called “a potential threat to life”? Why weren’t those tips passed onto agents who could have acted?
The fact that a lack of real answers are emerging will only give rise to speculation. Like the Las Vegas shooting (where people still wonder over the man’s motives), people will concoct conspiracy theories about the FBI. Why did they ignore the warnings? Could there have been motive? Is the FBI trying to increase the number of mass shootings in America?
All ridiculous notions. But, in light of the circumstances (and a lack of answers), what else can we believe?