The FBI had prior knowledge of the South Florida shooter’s violent tendencies.
Back in September 2017, a YouTuber in Mississippi noticed a comment from a user going by the name Nikolas Cruz.
The comment, which has since been removed by YouTube, stated:
"I'm going to be a professional school shooter.”
The YouTube vlogger, a 36-year-old named Ben Bennight, reportedly alerted the FBI right away. This included sending a screenshot of the comment and calling the FBI’s Mississippi field office.
“They came to my office the next morning and asked me if I knew anything about the person,” Bennight told BuzzFeed, which first reported the story. “I didn’t. They took a copy of the screenshot and that was the last I heard from them.”
That interview took place on September 25, in which Bennight was interviewed in person about the comment on his page.
However, that was the last contact he had by the FBI until Wednesday, when a 19-year-old named Nikolas Cruz allegedly opened fire and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida.
For his part, on Wednesday night, Bennight posted a video addressing the comment and his interactions with the FBI. In a video titled “The FBI came to visit me today about Nikolas Cruz,” Bennight told his subscribers “people leave pretty heinous comments on a pretty regular basis on this channel and I really didn’t think anything of it.” He went on to say that this particular comment stood out. “But this comment said, ‘I’m going to be a professional school shooter’ and I knew I couldn’t just ignore that.”
While the FBI wouldn’t confirm the YouTube commenter Nikolas Cruz matches the same person of the shooting, they did contact Bennight immediately following the incident at about 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
According to the YouTuber, he got a voicemail from Special Agent Ryan Furr with the bureau’s Miami field office.
“I think we spoke with you in the past about a complaint that you made about someone making a comment on your YouTube channel,” Furr said on the voicemail. “I just wanted to follow up with you on that and ask you a question with something that’s come up, if you wouldn’t mind giving me a ring.”
The FBI said Thursday it had knowledge of the YouTube comment, but said “no other information was included in the comment, which would indicate a time, location, or true identity of the person who made the comment,” special agent Robert Lasky told reporters. “The FBI conducted database reviews, checks, but was unable to further identify the person who made the comment.”
On the other hand, the Nikolas Cruz YouTube account was suspended as of Thursday morning due to “multiple or severe violations of YouTube’s policy on violence.”
At this time, Cruz stands charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and remains in police custody.