FBI Rebuked for Bungling Tip on Florida School Shooting

The U.S. attorney general is ordering an immediate review of how the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation respond to warnings about potential mass killers. 

The action followed an admission Friday by the FBI — the top national law enforcement agency — that it had ignored a tip about the gunman who killed 17 people and wounded 14 others at a school in Florida on Wednesday.

“This includes more than just an error review but also a review of how we respond,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement rebuking the FBI. “This will include possible consultation with family members, mental health officials, school officials and local law enforcement.”

The agency acknowledged that it did not follow “established protocols” after receiving information about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, on its national tip line. The FBI said that on January 5, someone with a close relationship to Cruz left information about the teenager’s desire to kill people and other disturbing details. 

The tip was never received by the FBI’s field office in Miami, Robert Lasky, the special agent in charge there, told reporters. “We truly regret any additional pain that this has caused,” he said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement that he was devoted to “getting to the bottom” of the matter and that FBI employees “are relentlessly committed to improving all that we do and how we do it.”

In a statement, Florida Governor Rick Scott called for Wray’s ouster, saying his agents’ “failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable. The FBI has admitted that they were contacted last month by a person who called to inform them of Cruz’s ‘desire to kill people,’ and ‘the potential of him conducting a school shooting.’ ”

“Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn’t going to cut it,” the governor’s statement said. “An apology will never bring these 17 Floridians back to life or comfort the families who are in pain. The families will spend a lifetime wondering how this could happen, and an apology will never give them the answers they desperately need.”

‘Failed to act’

Scott noted that “we constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act.” Therefore, he said, “the FBI director needs to resign.”

U.S. President Donald Trump made no comment to reporters on Friday as he left the White House for Florida.

Arriving in the state a few hours later, he and first lady Melania Trump drove to the Broward hospital in Pompano Beach, meeting with some victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland.

Walking with Dr. Igor Nichiporenko, Trump praised the medical staff who treated the victims, saying, “The job they’ve done is incredible.” He also praised the speed at which first responders arrived at the school.

When asked by reporters whether the nation’s gun laws needed to be changed, Trump did not respond as he walked into a room.

Later, Trump traveled to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, meeting with several law enforcement officers. “Thank you all very much. Fantastic job. Thank you,” he told the officers.

Trump also met with Officer Mike Leonard, who said he was the one to locate and apprehend Cruz.

Speaking to Leonard, Trump said, “That was so modest, I would have told it much differently. I would have said, ‘Without me, they never would have found him,’ ” prompting laughter in the room.

‘They’re our future’

Melania Trump also thanked the officers who responded to the shooting. Referring to the students, she said, “They’re our future and let’s take care of them because they [went] through a lot.”

The White House released a statement late Friday that said the Trumps visited with two shooting victims — one girl and one boy.

Trump is to spend the long Presidents Day weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, about 55 kilometers (34 miles) from Parkland.

Cruz, who was being held at the Broward County jail without bond, has admitted carrying out the shootings with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, according to the county sheriff’s office. Cruz, who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons last year from the school, faces 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Some members of Congress from Florida, including Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Ted Deutsch (who represents the district where the killings took place), called for congressional investigations into how the FBI fumbled the tip about Cruz.

Two days before the shooting, the president unveiled his fiscal 2019 budget that proposes to cut millions of dollars from federal education programs that are designed to help prevent criminal activities in schools and help them recover from tragic events.

The proposed budget calls for a $25 million funding cut for nationwide school safety activities and the elimination of a $400 million grant program that school districts can use to offer mental health aid or to prevent bullying.

The funds that are on the chopping block were used to provide mental health services to students and teachers in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children between 6 and 7 years old and six adult staff members were killed in the worst school shooting in American history.

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