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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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Music

Lizzo Trying to Manifest Banging Drake After New Song Name-Drop

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Lizzo says she name-dropped Drake in her new song to turn the tables on an age-old trope of rappers doing the same for women — but it seems she’s actually trying to bang the dude.

During an interview with Zane Lowe, the singer mentioned Drake on her new song with Cardi B, “Rumors,” because she felt it’d be fun to give society a taste of its own medicine — and in this context, that means flipping the script on rappers/male musicians name-dropping fine women in their tunes.

If you didn’t hear the bar yet, it goes … “Last year, I thought I would losе it // Readin’ s*** on the internet // My smoothie cleanse and my diet // No, I ain’t f*** Drake yet (Ha).”

The Drake thing seems to have come out of left field … but Lizzo explained further in the ZL sit-down, jokingly saying she hasn’t quite been able to manifest some bedroom boom with Toronto’s Certified Lover Boy — even though it sounds like she’d love to take a dip.

All kidding aside, Lizzo says she included the line as a way to turn what rappers have often done in music — namely, name-dropping ladies/would-be sexual exploits — upside down on its head. It’s true … fellas have done that for a long time in the genre .

As far as their real-life relationship … Lizzo says she kinda knows Drake, and that he’s super cool.

Still, it seems she does, in fact, want some of what he’s got — at least based on her Twitter activity shortly after this interview aired. She tweeted right at Champagne Papi for the whole world to see, writing … “Hey big head @Drake.” Classic “wyd” vibes for modern dating.

Aubrey hasn’t publicly responded yet … but wouldn’t that be something if he did??? Unfortunately for her, he seems to have his hands full with
Johanna Leia and other things these days.

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Boxer Gervonta Davis Involved in Minor Plane Crash, Documents Aftermath

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Gervonta Davis just, miraculously, walked away from a plane crash relatively unscathed — and it sounds like what’s hurting him the most in the aftermath are his feet … and his caboose.

The professional boxer went live Saturday to document a terrifying encounter he says he and his crew had just gone through after boarding a private jet … which apparently failed to properly take off and crash landed back down to the airport grounds it was trying to leave.

Thankfully, it doesn’t appear the aircraft got very far up before coming back down to Earth — because Gervonta and other passengers seemed more or less okay … with their health and bodies intact.

That’s not to say Gervonta wasn’t feeling some hurt afterwards — on his live feed, he noted that his booty was aching like no other … this while he wrapped his feet in gauze. He’s pretty jovial about the whole thing, which is great to see, but this could’ve easily been way worse.

Gervonta also was able to get some shots of the downed plane, and it sure looks like something went wrong internally. There were also fire engines that showed up on the scene to evaluate the damage and tend to anyone’s injuries. Again, though, most everyone seems to be fine … which is absolutely incredible, because it appears there were even children aboard, based on a photo Gervonta posted shortly before getting on his flight. His video doesn’t capture any kids, though.

It’s unclear what exactly caused the malfunction — but you can hear Gervonta and his friends speculate on what happened … seems like there might’ve been some overheating of some sort. They also appear to be discussing some of the flight maneuvers the pilot(s) were using in the air … and the group seems to think that may have attributed to it going down.

Stay tuned while we here at Prestige try to get a hold of Gervonta’s team for more answers.

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Drake Takes Shot at Kanye in New Verse, Calls Him ‘Burnt Out’

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Drake is stirring the pot again on his rap beef with Kanye West — taking a new shot at the guy in a song he just dropped with Trippie Redd … and it might be the ultimate insult.

The rapper is featured on TR’s new track, “Betrayal,” and at one point in Drizzy’s verse, he brings up Mr. West by name … acknowledging that they are, indeed, still apparently beefing — while also going so far as to call Kanye “burnt out” … and noting it’s irrelevant to him.

Here’s how the Kanye bar goes … “All these fools I’m beefin’ that I barely know // Forty-five, forty-four (Burned out), let it go // Ye ain’t changin’ s*** for me, it’s set in stone.” He adds … “Rollin’ stones, heavy stones (PinkGrillz) // Precious stone, let me make my presence known.”

The “Ye” reference could possibly be interpreted as “they” or “you” — but based on Drake touching Kanye’s exact age (44) … it seems clear he meant the former with some clever word play. The folks over at Genius heard it too … they wrote out the lyric as “Ye.”

Now, for some analysis — as to why Drake is randomly bringing up Kanye again after years have passed since they beefed, with Pusha T in the mix, is anyone’s guess at this point.

However, some people have a theory on these old foes — there’s been speculation of late that Kanye is, perhaps, trying to set up his “Donda” release so that it lines up with Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy” album … which he’s on record as saying would be out by the end of summer at the latest. That’s just a few weeks away … and neither project has dropped.

There’s no evidence to prove it one way or another … but the fact that Kanye continues to delay the release date — with seemingly no end in sight — is curious in this context. That, coupled with the fact that Drake’s going after him anew, is even more eyebrow-raising.

In any case, we’re always here for some new beef. And, if it means more music from these two in the process … we’ll take it and then some. Ball’s in your court, Ye (we think).

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