Yesterday a nineteen-year-old named Nikolas Cruz stormed into his former high school in Parkland, Florida, pulled the fire alarm, and went to town on a horde of students filing into the halls with an AR-15 rifle. One look at his face will tell you that he was either going to make a big splash on InbredEnthuasist.com or that he was going to shoot a building full of people, and unfortunately it’s the latter that he will go down in history for.
If I had to choose ten people out of a photo lineup who shouldn’t own a gun Cruz would be one of them, but as a Chicagoan who lives next to the Florida of the Midwest, Indiana, context clues (plus Florida gun laws) tell me you can get a firearm by mailing in three Cinnamon Toast Crunch box tops there, and I doubt much could have been done to stop him from procuring a rifle. But this is true for most controlled things in garbage states. Hell over lunch I might pick up some meth from a CVS in Indiana to get through the afternoon.
But for me this tragedy goes beyond guns and how trashy Florida is, and while the nerve-deadening coverage of shootings over the past decade has left me, frankly, less impassioned about the seventeen victims than if my dog died, I care enough about the shooting to call out the FBI as a bunch of morons. This past September the FBI investigated a YouTube commenter named Nikolas Cruz who stated: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” The vlogger (ugh) who reported the comment to the FBI stated:
They [the FBI] came to my office the next morning and asked me if I knew anything about the person. I didn’t. They took a copy of the screenshot and that was the last I heard from them.
The FBI realized they were going to have to do too much investigating, and investigating is super hard, so they dropped the case. I mean wow, how do you crack that code.”I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” Indecipherable. Cruz also posted numerous pictures of himself with guns on since-deleted social media accounts. Always the people you least suspect.
Photo Credit: Instagram
This type of online sentiment is surely more widespread than we would like to believe, and I can only imagine the thousands of troubling comments posted each day on disturbing niche sites out there. Kimkardashianwest.com alone. Still, the FBI requested a budget of $8.77 billion dollars for 2018, and while investigating crazy people online does seem like super hard, it also seems super feasible with over $8 billion dollars.
With 323 million people living in the United States, this 2018 budget equals about $27 per citizen. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about one in six Americans suffer from mental illness, so if we want to focus exclusively on crazy people for the sake of my A Beautiful Mind equation, that would equal about $163 per potentially high-risk individual. Even taking into account the countless other responsibilities that fall under the FBI’s jurisdiction, this is surely enough of a budget to fully investigate someone as much of a textbook shooter as a disenfranchised, expelled, white teenager with the same name as a YouTube user you commented: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” Surely. In addressing the comment during a press conference this morning, special agent Robert Lasky admitted that the people we pay money to employ at the FBI couldn’t do their jobs:
No other information was included in the comment, which would indicate a time, location, or true identity of the person who made the comment. The FBI conducted database reviews, checks, but was unable to further identify the person who made the comment.
Consider the person identified.
— Franklin White (@FranklinWSVN) February 14, 2018
UPDATE: On February 16th the FBI released this followup statement. Woops:
On January 5, 2018, a person close to Nikolas Cruz contacted the FBI’s Public Access Line (PAL) tipline to report concerns about him. The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.
Under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life. The information then should have been forwarded to the FBI Miami Field Office, where appropriate investigative steps would have been taken.
We have determined that these protocols were not followed for the information received by the PAL on January 5. The information was not provided to the Miami Field Office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said:
“We are still investigating the facts. I am committed to getting to the bottom of what happened in this particular matter, as well as reviewing our processes for responding to information that we receive from the public. It’s up to all Americans to be vigilant, and when members of the public contact us with concerns, we must act properly and quickly.
“We have spoken with victims and families, and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy. All of the men and women of the FBI are dedicated to keeping the American people safe, and are relentlessly committed to improving all that we do and how we do it.”
Photo Credit: Broward County Sheriff’s Office