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How the system built to stop Stoneman Douglas school shooter repeatedly broke down

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The Broward County Sheriff’s Office received a call in November with an ominous warning: Nikolas Cruz, a troubled 19-year-old, was collecting guns and knives and “could be a school shooter in the making.”

It was one of at least four times local or federal authorities were contacted about such a threat linked to Cruz, including a tip the FBI received in January warning that he would “get into a school and just shoot the place up,” according to a transcript of the call obtained by The Post on Friday. Another tip to the sheriff’s office the previous year warned that Cruz “planned to shoot up the school.”

In the era of “see something, say something,” members of the public did just that. But what happened after the November call fit a disturbing pattern in the lead-up to the Parkland, Fla., massacre: No report was filed, and there is no evidence the threat was ever investigated.

Less than three months later, police say, Cruz walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and gunned down 17 students and faculty members. As the rampage has supercharged the country’s politically fraught debate over gun control and school safety, it also has cast a spotlight on the systems set up to protect Americans nationwide.

The FBI’s acting deputy director David Bowdich said this week that the agency made mistakes in its handling of a warning about Cruz. The FBI on Friday briefed congressional staff on the tip and the agency’s failure to properly follow up.

Investigations into mass shootings often reveal warning signs that seem blindingly clear with the benefit of hindsight. But the Parkland shooting has stood out for the sheer scale of how many alarms were raised before the Feb. 14 rampage.

Rather than flying under the radar, Cruz was a known troublemaker who repeatedly drew scrutiny from local, state and federal authorities as well as school officials, social services investigators and mental-health counselors. Yet time and time again, the alarms would go unheeded.

This account is based on interviews, police records, state documents, public statements and 911 recordings dealing with the shooting. Cruz is behind bars, charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, and likely to face a possible death sentence.

Police say they never had cause to arrest Cruz, leaving him with a clean criminal record and able to pass background checks. Only five states have “red flag laws” allowing them to seize guns before people can commit acts of violence, and Florida is not among them.

“We take guns from people when we run into them engaged in aberrant, troubling behavior,” said Daniel J. Oates, the Miami Beach police chief who had the same role in Aurora, Colo., when a gunman killed 12 at a movie theater there in 2012. But under Florida law, he said, “there’s a strong presumption that the person is entitled to the gun back.”

Howard Finkelstein, the Broward County public defender representing Cruz, said he should have been involuntarily hospitalized under the state’s Baker Act.

“There is no explaining how every single agency in every regard missed every signal,” said Finkelstein. “It’s very overwhelming in its sadness and scariness. Because there are people in this county, and I imagine counties all over America, who want to know: Are my children safe?”

People who knew Cruz growing up said he would attack animals and pick fights, while educators repeatedly referred him to counseling. The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) investigated his home life in 2016 after receiving allegations he was being mistreated, but officials said his risk level was low because he lived with his mother, attended school and received counseling. The probe was closed.

In November, his mother died and he was removed from Stoneman Douglas earlier that year for disciplinary reasons. The same month he left Douglas, Cruz purchased the AR-15 he would use in the rampage, police said.

By the time of the shooting, Cruz had legally purchased at least 10 rifles and shotguns, including an AK-47 variant, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

Law enforcement officials have drawn intense criticism for lapses involving Cruz. The FBI said it failed to investigate the January warning about concerns that he wanted to kill people, owned guns and could carry out a school shooting.

This person told the FBI that she worried Cruz was “going to explode,” a federal law enforcement official said Friday. Details of her call were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which reviewed a transcript of the call. A federal law enforcement official confirmed the information to The Washington Post.

The caller, who seemed to have detailed knowledge of Cruz’s behavior, said Cruz had commented on social media about killing himself — something passed to local police, she said — and that his more recent posts suggested violence against others.

“Something is going to happen,” the caller said.

The FBI representative inquired about the caller’s assertion that Cruz was “into ISIS” and requested contact information for the people with whom Cruz is said to be staying.

That tip came months after the FBI was alerted to a YouTube comment in which someone with the screen name “nikolas cruz” wrote “Im going to be a professional school shooter.” The agency said it was unable to determine who posted the message at the time, but now believes it was Cruz.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday it received 23 calls relating to Cruz or his family dating back to 2008, when he was 9 years old.

In one 911 call to that sheriff’s office, a woman said that her son and another young man — Cruz, according to his lawyer who confirmed this call centered on his client — got into a fight, and she was “afraid he’s coming back and he has a lot of weapons.” She also said that Cruz had aimed a gun at people’s heads before. In another 911 call, Cruz called authorities and, sounding distressed, said he was attacked.

In Broward County, the sheriff’s office said it has launched internal investigations into how two calls about Cruz were handled. The February 2016 call alleged Cruz had stated on Instagram that he wanted to shoot up a school; a deputy spoke to the caller and determined that Cruz had knives and a BB gun, the sheriff’s office said.

Information about that call was sent to Scot Peterson, the Douglas school resource officer who failed to enter the building during the shooting, but it was unclear what he did with the tip. Peterson has retired and the deputy has been placed on restricted administrative duty as part of the investigation.

In November, a caller alerted the Broward County Sheriff’s Office that Cruz was collecting guns and knives, wanted to join the Army, may commit suicide and could be a school shooter. Authorities have not identified the caller, except to say they called from Massachusetts.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said this week that no report was filed on that call. After the Stoneman Douglas shooting, a deputy said he referred the caller to the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, but a spokeswoman for that office said they were never told of that threat. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said it launched an internal investigation into the call but declined to provide further details about what happened after, citing the ongoing internal affairs investigation.

Robert Bonczek, 17, a Stoneman Douglas senior who plans to join the Marine Corps, said students are angry with law enforcement officials and that civilians and authorities alike don’t take threats as seriously as they should.

“We’re desensitized to any threat,” he said. “So when they see something on the Internet they think, ‘eh, whatever.’ No one ever thinks it will happen to you.”

Bonczek said most students are focusing not on blame, but with channeling their anger to press for changes to laws regulating guns.

“The FBI didn’t do their job, but it’s hard to do anything about that,” he said. “But with Congress, we can specifically make calls for change.”

 

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MO’NIQUE SUES NETFLIX FOR DISCRIMINATION

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Mo’Nique is finally taking her accusations against Netflix for discrimination to a court of law … she’s filed a lawsuit.

In the suit, the Oscar-winning actress and comedian accuses Netflix of race-based discrimination for how it negotiated a comedy special with her. She says Netflix offered Amy Schumer $11 million for an hour-long stand-up special (she eventually got $13 mil), but only offered Mo’Nique $500,000 for her stand-up special.

Mo’Nique never accepted their offer, and went on a public campaign … which included coming on “TMZ Live” and calling for a boycott against the company.

According to the suit, she claims Netflix has a severe lack of diversity, which contributes to their discriminatory practices. Specifically, she claims one Netflix exec. — the Chief Communications Officer — used the n-word in a meeting with 60 people in 2018. Mo’Nique was not present for that meeting.

She also claims Netflix allowed Kevin Spacey to use the n-word while on the set of “House of Cards” without any consequence. In the suit, she alleges Spacey complained to his personal security guards, “I don’t want [n-words] on my set anymore.” She’s not suing Spacey.

Mo’Nique also used a major pay gap on the Netflix hit, “The Crown,” to illustrate alleged discrimination. She says the actress who plays Queen Elizabeth II was paid $14k per episode less than the actor who played Prince Philip — and it only righted the wrong after there was a public outcry about it.

She’s suing Netflix for unspecified damages, and for an injunction forcing the company to change its discriminatory policies.

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Beverly Hills Cop’ Sequel With Eddie Murphy Jumps to Netflix in Licensing Deal With Paramount

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Netflix has acquired the rights to shoot a new sequel to “Beverly Hills Cop” from Paramount, with star Eddie Murphy and producer Jerry Bruckheimer attached, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish announced Thursday.

The original 1984 action-comedy film, starring Murphy as a quick-witted, trash-talking Detroit cop who investigates his friend’s murder in Beverly Hills, was a huge hit for the studio — and spawned sequels in 1987 and 1994. The three films grossed $736 million worldwide.

Paramount had been developing “Beverly Hills Cop 4” for years — but pulled the project from its release slate in 2016.

In recent years, the studio has made deals with Netflix for completed films, selling “Cloverfield: God Particle” to the streamer for an early 2018 release and offloading overseas rights to the Natalie Portman sci-fi film “Annihilation” after a 17-day U.S. theatrical window. But it’s an unusual move for a studio to license its own IP for an unfinished film.

In recent months, Paramount parent company Viacom has shown an increasing willingness to make revenue-generating deals on its library of content rather than hoard those rights for its own internal streaming services as rivals like Disney, Comcast’s NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia have done.

This week, Viacom’s Nickelodeon announced a multiyear output deal for films and TV series with Netflix. And last month, the company sold the exclusive streaming rights to Comedy Central’s “South Park” to WarnerMedia’s HBO Max in a deal worth at least $500 million.

The “Beverly Hills Cop” deal also comes as Netflix has helped to revive Murphy’s career with its new release “Dolemite Is My Name,” which has generated awards season chatter. The star is also shooting the sequel to another Paramount comedy hit, 1988’s “Coming to America,” that’s due for theatrical release next year.

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The 10 top-earning actresses made almost $300 million less than their male peers this year

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For the second year in a row, Scarlett Johansson is Hollywood’s highest-paid actress, having earned $56 million between June 1, 2018 and June 1, 2019.

According to Forbes’ list of the 10 highest-paid actresses of 2019, most of Johannson’s earnings come from her role as Black Widow. She was the only woman in “Endgame” granted an eight-figure salary up front, as well as 5% earnings on the back end.

Johannson, along with the other nine actresses on the list, including Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon, earned a collective total of about $315 million over the past year. Though that’s a 69% increase from the previous year, Forbes reports that it’s still significantly less than the top 10 highest-paid actors, who collectively earned almost $600 million over the same time period.

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