The Wall Street Journal has published an account of the call the FBI received on January 5, 2018, warning that Nikolas Cruz was becoming a danger to others. The language of the call makes it crystal clear that Cruz seemed like someone who might go on a shooting spree. It also specifically mentioned red flags including past incidents of school violence and dissection of small animals:
“You know, it’s just so much,” she said on the call. “I know he’s—he’s going to explode.” She said she was making the call because she wanted a “clear conscience if he takes off and, and just starts shooting places up.”…
The caller began by saying Mr. Cruz had the mental capacity of a 12- or 14-year-old. She said he had started posting messages on his Instagram account that he wanted to kill himself and she’d alerted police to that threat, but wasn’t sure what happened in that investigation.
More recently, Mr. Cruz “switched it to he wants to kill people,” the unidentified woman told the operator in a somewhat rambling conversation.
“Something is gonna happen,” she said. “Because he’s, he doesn’t have the mental capacity. He can’t, he’s so outraged if someone talks to him about certain things.”
The caller described disturbing behavior by Mr. Cruz, including a propensity for cutting up frogs and, at least on one occasion, a bird.
He actually brought the bird into the kitchen and cut it up with a knife, reportedly saying, “I want to see what’s inside.” The caller, who is only identified as a woman close to Cruz,
also provided the FBI with Cruz’s various social media accounts so they could see for themselves what he was saying online. Obviously, this should have led the FBI to connect his YouTube account (username Nikolas Cruz) and the previous threat about becoming a school shooter.
The caller also told the FBI, “He’s [been] thrown out of all these schools because he would pick up a chair and just throw it at somebody, a teacher or a student, because he didn’t like the way they were talking to him.” The fact that he’d been tossed out of multiple schools even before the death of his mother should have been another dot for the FBI to connect.
This really settles it for me. This shooting should have and could have been stopped if the FBI had done their job. The dots were out there. This woman, whoever she is, was warning that someone needed to investigate before Cruz started “shooting places up.” And all of this happened 5 1/2 weeks before the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school. That’s more than enough time for someone to realize Cruz needed to at least be interviewed.
And once the FBI showed up at the house, maybe the Sneads (the family Cruz was living with) would have taken his access to guns away completely. Remember, their story on all of this is that they were unaware of the social media postings and some of the anti-social behavior he engaged in online. Kimberly Snead said, “We didn’t see this side of him.” Look, maybe they’re saying that now because they’re worried about a lawsuit but clearly they didn’t think Cruz was about to go on a mass shooting spree or they would not have let him into their house. So having the FBI show up and relate the various warnings they were getting would have impressed on the Sneads that things were much worse than they seemed.
Granted, this is all 20/20 hindsight but I don’t think it’s some far-out fantasy. All of the information was there it just didn’t get to the right people in time. And the reason it didn’t isn’t because there was no system in place to deal with it but because someone didn’t follow the procedures already in place. If the FBI had simply passed on this very explicit tip for further investigation, it seems like it would have ended differently. No doubt we’ll learn more detail about why the FBI dropped the ball now that the Attorney General has asked for an investigation.
Update: Here’s the full transcript at the NY Times. It’s 5 pages long. I won’t go over all of it but here’s the last substantive thing the caller tells the FBI:
It’s alarming to see all these [social media] pictures and to know what he’s capable of doing and what could happen. He’s not in school any longer. He never graduated high school. He’s thrown out of all of these schools because he would pick up a chair and just throw it at somebody, a teacher or a student because he didn’t like the way they were talking to him. Um I-I just think about, you know, getting into a school and just shooting the place up.
I don’t know how the warning could have been any clearer than that.