Florida school shooting suspect makes 1st court appearance on murder charges

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Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz was brought to the Broward County jail and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder Thursday morning. (Feb. 15)
AP

Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where he allegedly killed 17 people, is seen on a closed circuit television screen during a bond hearing in front of Broward Judge Kim Mollica at the Broward County Courthouse on Feb.15, 2018 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.(Photo: Susan Stocker, Getty Images)

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A subdued, handcuffed Nikolas Cruz made his first court appearance Thursday on charges of premeditated murder in the killing of 17 students and faculty at a Florida high school.

Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and with his head slightly lowered, Cruz said only, “yes, ma’am,” when addressed on closed-circuit television by Judge Kim Theresa Mollica.

Mollica ordered the suspect held without bond on 17 counts of murder. His attorney, public defender Melissa McNeill, stood with her arm around Cruz during the brief court appearance as they stood before a podium looking at the camera, did not contest the order.

Cruz, with his hands shackled at his waist, turned and was led out of the room by deputies.

The brief hearing amounted to a formal presentation of charges in the massacre Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. He had been booked into Broward County Jail on Thursday morning.

This photo provided by the Broward County (Fla.) Jail shows Nikolas Cruz. Authorities say Cruz, a former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, killing more than a dozen people and injuring several. (Photo: Broward County (Fla.) Jail via AP)

After his expulsion last year for fighting, Cruz returned to the high school with a vengeance, outfitted with a gas mask, smoke grenades and multiple magazines of ammunition and a semi-automatic weapon.

Authorities say he triggered a fire alarm in a building that normally serves freshmen students, then roamed the schools’ corridors — from the first floor to the third — opening fire on students pouring into hallways.

It was the nation’s deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., more than five years ago.

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Friends embrace in tears at the Parkridge Church in Coral Springs before the start of a community prayer vigil for Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting victims, Feb. 15, 2018. 
ERIC HASERT, USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen
Attendees react at a prayer vigil for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at the Parkland Baptist Church, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla.  
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Attendees comfort each other at a prayer vigil for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at the Parkland Baptist Church, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla.  
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Emmy Halulko, 13, (left) and her sister Evie, 5, both of Coral Springs stopped to pet Jacob, a Lutheran Church Charities comfort dog while at the Parkridge Church in Coral Springs for a community prayer vigil for all the shooting victims at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. “Awful” Emmy said about the shooting before breaking down in tears, acknowledging she knew several people at the school, Feb. 15, 2018  
Eric Hasert, USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen
Kristi Gilroy hugs a young woman at a police check point near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman yesterday, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. 
MARK WILSON, GETTY IMAGESFullscreen
Sheree Spaulding stands with her 15-year-old son, Justin who is a 9th grader at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman yesterday, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. Police arrested the suspect after a short manhunt, and have identified him as 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz.  
MARK WILSON, GETTY IMAGESFullscreen
Sheree Spaulding walks with her 15-year-old son, Justin Spauling, who is a 9th grader at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman yesterday, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla.  
MARK WILSON, GETTY IMAGESFullscreen
Police control a road near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman yesterday, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. Police arrested the suspect after a short manhunt, and have identified him as 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz.  
MARK WILSON, GETTY IMAGESFullscreen
Law enforcement officers block off the entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla.  
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Law enforcement officers block off the entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Kristi Gilroy (2ndL), hugs a young woman as a police officer tries to clear a closed road at a police check point near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. Police arrested the suspect after a short manhunt, and have identified him as 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz.  
MARK WILSON, GETTY IMAGESFullscreen
Dr. Louis Yogel, chief of staff, right, address the media during a press briefing outside of Broward Health Medical Center. Dr. Benny Menendez, chief of emergency medicine, left, listens. 
Dorothy Edwards/Naples Daily NewsFullscreen
Dr. Benny Menendez, chief of emergency medicine, addresses the media during a press briefing outside of Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla, Wednesday. 
Dorothy Edwards/Naples Daily NewsFullscreen
Families reunite after a mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen
Max Charles, second from right, 14, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., speaks to members of the media after being picked up by family members at a nearby hotel, in Coral Springs, Fla. A former student opened fire at the Florida high school Wednesday, killing more than a dozen people and sending scores of students fleeing into the streets in the nation’s deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. 
Wilfredo Lee, APFullscreen
People wait outside the main entrance of Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. due to the hospital being on lockdown after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. 
Dorothy Edwards, Naples Daily News via USA TodayFullscreen
Sheree Spaulding hugs her son, Justin, 15, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland, Fla., as she speaks to members of the media after picking up her son at a nearby hotel, Wednesday, in Coral Springs, Fla. 
Wilfredo Lee, APFullscreen
Families reunite after a mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen
Jorge Zapata,16, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hugss his mother, Lavinia Zapata, after a mass shooting earlier in the day at the school. “I was just really incredibly, indescribably happy to see him, because you never know,” Lavinia said. 
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen
Families reunite after a mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen
Dalila Ladero, 16, of Coral Springs, Fla. stands near friends after being reunited with her mother at University Drive and Holmberg Road in Parkland. “When all that happened, I wasn’t in my class, I just started following people…I was just seeing everyone screaming and crying and I didn’t know what was happening,” she said. “I was calm, I just started praying.”  
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA Today NetworkFullscreen
Students wait outside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA Today NetworkFullscreen
Trauma surgeon Dr. Igor Nichiporenko (C) and director for emergency medicine Dr. Evan Boyar (R) address the media outside the Broward Health Emergency facility where victims were taken following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami, Wednesday. 
MICHELE EVE SANDBERG, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
A student reacts as she talks to a television reporter following a school shooting.
 
MICHELE EVE SANDBERG, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
Students react at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a school shooting.
 
MICHELE EVE SANDBERG, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
People react at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a school shooting.
 
MICHELE EVE SANDBERG, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
Students react at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a school shooting.
 
MICHELE EVE SANDBERG, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
Students run with their hands in the air following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Students released from a lockdown walk away following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
A young woman gets a hug outside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
AMY BETH BENNETT, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Police officers ride in the back of a pick up truck as they tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
A parent talks on cellphone waiting for news after a reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOEL AUERBACH, APFullscreen
Students wait to be picked up after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
People hug following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
A member of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office stands watch at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOEL AUERBACH, APFullscreen
Students released from a lockdown embrace following following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Fire rescue vehicles arrive at Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting in Parkland, Fla. Feb 14, 2018 
South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
The campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting that reportedly killed and injured multiple people. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
Parents wait for news after a report of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. 
JOEL AUERBACH, APFullscreen
A law enforcement officer tells anxious family members to move back. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Anxious family members wait for information on students in Parkland, Fla.  
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
A student shows a law enforcement officer his phone. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
A law enforcement officer talks with students outside of the school. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Family members embrace after a student walked out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Anxious family members watch a rescue vehicle pass by in Parkland, Fla.  
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Family members wait for news of students after a school shooting. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
In this frame grab from video from WPLG-TV, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., evacuate the school following a shooting. 
WPLG-TV via APFullscreen
In this frame grab from video from WPLG-TV, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., evacuate the school following a shooting. 
WPLG-TV via APFullscreen
In this frame grab from  WPLG-TV, emergency personnel
wheel an injured person from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in
Parkland, Fla., following a shooting      
WPLG-TV via APFullscreen
In this frame grab from video from WPLG-TV, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., evacuate the school following a shooting. 
WPLG-TV via APFullscreen
In this frame grab from video from WPLG-TV, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., evacuate the school following a shooting. 
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Cruz, listed at 5-foot-7 and 131 pounds, was arrested a short distance from the high school near a home, a law enforcement official not authorized to comment publicly told USA TODAY.  

Cruz, who is being held without bond, tried to slip away after the carnage by blending in with fleeing students, but was recognized by fellow teens who knew him for his quick temper and erratic behavior.

More: Why the AR-15 keeps appearing at America’s deadliest mass shootings

More: Florida shooting: What we know about attack at Parkland high school

More: Suspect in fatal Florida school attack is former student with ‘anger’ issues

More: Florida high school football coach ‘died a hero’ while shielding students

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A former student went on a shooting rampage at a Florida high school, leaving 17 dead while panicked students barricaded themselves inside classrooms and frantic parents raced to the scene.
USA TODAY

The 17 dead include students and adults, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. At least 15 were injured and taken to local hospitals.

A sheriff said the bodies of 12 of the dead, including a beloved coach and security guard, Aaron Feis, who stepped in front of one spray of bullets to protect his students, were found inside the building.

Counselors were made available Thursday morning off-campus for the more than 3,000 students, teachers and staff at the school, which will remain closed as an investigation continues.

It is with Great sadness that our Football Family has learned about the death of Aaron Feis. He was our Assistant Football Coach and security guard. He selflessly shielded students from the shooter when he was shot. He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories pic.twitter.com/O181FvuHl3

— MS Douglas Football (@MSDEagles) February 15, 2018A glimpse into suspect’s past

Israel said Cruz had been expelled from the school for “disciplinary reasons.”

Victoria Olvera, 17, a junior, said the suspect was kicked out last school year after a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. She said Cruz had been abusive to his girlfriend.

School officials said Cruz attended another school in Broward County after his expulsion.

Before the hearing, Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes, whose office is defending Cruz, described Cruz as a “deeply troubled child who has endured a lot of emotional trauma in a short period of time,” the Sun-Sentinel reports. He said Cruz began spiraling downward following the death of his mother in November.

McNeill, his attorney, described Cruz on Thursday as a “broken child” who suffered brain developmental problems and depression. She said he was “sad, mournful and remorseful” over the killings.

A second public defender said Cruz was on suicide watch in jail.

A law enforcement official told the Associated Press that Cruz legally purchased his AR-15 rifle about a year ago. The official is familiar with the investigation into the shooting but not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Cruz’s mother Lynda Cruz died of pneumonia Nov. 1, neighbors, friends and family members said, according to the Sun Sentinel. Cruz and her husband, who died of a heart attack several years ago, adopted Nikolas and his biological brother, Zachary, after the couple moved from Long Island in New York to Broward County.

The boys were left in the care of a family friend after their mother died, family member Barbara Kumbatovich, of Long Island, said.

Unhappy there, Nikolas Cruz asked to move in with a friend’s family in northwest Broward. The family agreed and Cruz moved in around Thanksgiving. According to Jim Lewis, the family’s lawyer, who did not identify them, they knew Cruz owned the AR-15 but made him keep it locked up in a cabinet. He did have the key, however.

“This family did what they thought was right, which was to bring in a troubled kid and try to help him out,” he told CNN.

Broward County Mayor Beam Furr said during an interview with CNN that the shooter was getting treatment at a mental health clinic for a while, but that he hadn’t been back to the clinic for more than a year.

“It wasn’t like there wasn’t concern for him,” Furr said.

Warning signs

Math teacher Jim Gard told The Miami Herald that Cruz may have been identified as a potential threat to other students. Gard said he believes the school sent out an email warning teachers that Cruz, who had been in his class last year, shouldn’t be allowed on campus with a backpack.

“There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus,” Gard said.

However, Broward County School District Superintendent Robert Runcie said Thursday he did not know of any threats posed by Cruz to the school.

“Typically you see in these situations that there potentially could have been signs out there,” Runcie said. “I would be speculating at this point if there were, but we didn’t have any warnings. There weren’t any phone calls or threats that we know of that were made.”

Cruz’s former classmates say the former participant in the ninth grade JROTC group, had a hot temper and a history of making dark, gun-related jokes. 

Jillian Davis, 19, recalls him as withdrawn and having “a lot of anger management issues.”

“Finding out it was him makes a lot of sense now,” Davis said.

Dakota Mutchler, 17, a junior, said he used to be close friends with Cruz, who “started progressively getting a little more weird.”

Mutchler recalled Cruz posting on Instagram about killing animals and said he talked about doing target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.

A Mississippi bail bondsman and frequent YouTube blogger received an eerie comment last year that took on new meaning Wednesday. “Im going to be a professional school shooter,” the post read. The poster’s name: “Nikolas Cruz.”

Ben Bennight said he took a screenshot and reported the post to the FBI. “I wish I could have given them more information but it was just a comment on my channel,” he said.  

FBI special agent Rob Lasky told reporters they pursued the report but they were unable to determine the location or true identity of the person making the comment. 

‘This is tragic’

The massacre in Florida left a close-knit community reeling. As the ordeal unfolded, parents rushed to the school, lining a nearby roadway to await word on their loved ones. Others simply grieved.

In a TV address Thursday, President Trump said he would visit Parkland, Fla., to meet with family members and local officials. He called for unity and for tackling the difficult issue of mental illness.

“It is not enough to simply take action that makes us feel like we are making a difference, we must actually make that difference,” he said.

Officials said a #GoFundMe site, Stoneman Douglas Victims Fund, had been set up on behalf of victims and their families. 

In Parkland, Gov. Rick Scott met with families of the victims Wednesday night and said his heart goes out to them.

“I don’t know what to say to everybody other than the fact that we live in a state that people love each other and care about each other,” he said. “This is tragic. It makes you mad.”

He told reporters that he would meet with lawmakers in Tallahassee to find ways to keep people with mental illness from obtaining weapons. “If someone is mentally ill, they should not have access to a gun,” he said.

Runcie said students at the stricken high school approached him to call on lawmakers to take action.

“(They) are saying that now is the time for this country to have a real conversation on sensible gun control laws.” he said.

Contributing Kevin Johnson and Crystal Hayes, USA TODAY; Emily Bohatch, The (Stuart, Fla.) News; The Associated Press. 

Florida high school shooting: Here’s what we know

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Several people are injured after a shooting at a south Florida high school, and the suspect is still at large, police said.
USA TODAY

Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Feb. 14, 2018.(Photo: John McCall, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

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The deadliest high school shooting in modern American history occurred about 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., about 30 miles northwest of Fort Lauderdale.

Here’s what we know:

How many were killed and injured?

At least 17 people were killed, 12 of them inside the school. Three more were killed just outside the school and another two died of their injuries after being taken to the hospital, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said.

The victims included both students and adults. 

A total of 17 people, including the suspected gunman and the two victims who died later, were taken to local hospitals. At least three of them are in critical condition and three are stable. The suspect was treated and released into police custody, doctors said. 

“It’s a horrific situation. It’s just a horrible day for us,” said Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie. “…This is a day we prayed would never happen in our county.” 

‘There are really no words’: 17 dead in Florida high school shooting; former student in custody

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Kristi Gilroy hugs a young woman at a police check point near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman yesterday, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. 
MARK WILSON, GETTY IMAGESFullscreen
Sheree Spaulding stands with her 15-year-old son, Justin who is a 9th grader at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman yesterday, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. Police arrested the suspect after a short manhunt, and have identified him as 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz.  
MARK WILSON, GETTY IMAGESFullscreen
Sheree Spaulding walks with her 15-year-old son, Justin Spauling, who is a 9th grader at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman yesterday, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla.  
MARK WILSON, GETTY IMAGESFullscreen
Police control a road near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman yesterday, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. Police arrested the suspect after a short manhunt, and have identified him as 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz.  
MARK WILSON, GETTY IMAGESFullscreen
Law enforcement officers block off the entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla.  
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Law enforcement officers block off the entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Kristi Gilroy (2ndL), hugs a young woman as a police officer tries to clear a closed road at a police check point near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. Police arrested the suspect after a short manhunt, and have identified him as 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz.  
MARK WILSON, GETTY IMAGESFullscreen
Dr. Louis Yogel, chief of staff, right, address the media during a press briefing outside of Broward Health Medical Center. Dr. Benny Menendez, chief of emergency medicine, left, listens. 
Dorothy Edwards/Naples Daily NewsFullscreen
Dr. Benny Menendez, chief of emergency medicine, addresses the media during a press briefing outside of Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla, Wednesday. 
Dorothy Edwards/Naples Daily NewsFullscreen
Families reunite after a mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen
Max Charles, second from right, 14, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., speaks to members of the media after being picked up by family members at a nearby hotel, in Coral Springs, Fla. A former student opened fire at the Florida high school Wednesday, killing more than a dozen people and sending scores of students fleeing into the streets in the nation’s deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. 
Wilfredo Lee, APFullscreen
People wait outside the main entrance of Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. due to the hospital being on lockdown after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. 
Dorothy Edwards, Naples Daily News via USA TodayFullscreen
Sheree Spaulding hugs her son, Justin, 15, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland, Fla., as she speaks to members of the media after picking up her son at a nearby hotel, Wednesday, in Coral Springs, Fla. 
Wilfredo Lee, APFullscreen
Families reunite after a mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen
Jorge Zapata,16, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hugss his mother, Lavinia Zapata, after a mass shooting earlier in the day at the school. “I was just really incredibly, indescribably happy to see him, because you never know,” Lavinia said. 
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen
Families reunite after a mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen
Dalila Ladero, 16, of Coral Springs, Fla. stands near friends after being reunited with her mother at University Drive and Holmberg Road in Parkland. “When all that happened, I wasn’t in my class, I just started following people…I was just seeing everyone screaming and crying and I didn’t know what was happening,” she said. “I was calm, I just started praying.”  
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA Today NetworkFullscreen
Students wait outside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA Today NetworkFullscreen
Trauma surgeon Dr. Igor Nichiporenko (C) and director for emergency medicine Dr. Evan Boyar (R) address the media outside the Broward Health Emergency facility where victims were taken following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami, Wednesday. 
MICHELE EVE SANDBERG, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
A student reacts as she talks to a television reporter following a school shooting.
 
MICHELE EVE SANDBERG, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
Students react at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a school shooting.
 
MICHELE EVE SANDBERG, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
People react at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a school shooting.
 
MICHELE EVE SANDBERG, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
Students react at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a school shooting.
 
MICHELE EVE SANDBERG, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
Students run with their hands in the air following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Students released from a lockdown walk away following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
A young woman gets a hug outside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
AMY BETH BENNETT, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Police officers ride in the back of a pick up truck as they tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
A parent talks on cellphone waiting for news after a reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOEL AUERBACH, APFullscreen
Students wait to be picked up after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
People hug following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
A member of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office stands watch at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOEL AUERBACH, APFullscreen
Students released from a lockdown embrace following following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Fire rescue vehicles arrive at Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting in Parkland, Fla. Feb 14, 2018 
South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
The campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting that reportedly killed and injured multiple people. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
Parents wait for news after a report of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. 
JOEL AUERBACH, APFullscreen
A law enforcement officer tells anxious family members to move back. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Anxious family members wait for information on students in Parkland, Fla.  
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
A student shows a law enforcement officer his phone. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
A law enforcement officer talks with students outside of the school. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Family members embrace after a student walked out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Anxious family members watch a rescue vehicle pass by in Parkland, Fla.  
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Family members wait for news of students after a school shooting. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
In this frame grab from video from WPLG-TV, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., evacuate the school following a shooting. 
WPLG-TV via APFullscreen
In this frame grab from video from WPLG-TV, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., evacuate the school following a shooting. 
WPLG-TV via APFullscreen
In this frame grab from  WPLG-TV, emergency personnel
wheel an injured person from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in
Parkland, Fla., following a shooting      
WPLG-TV via APFullscreen
In this frame grab from video from WPLG-TV, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., evacuate the school following a shooting. 
WPLG-TV via APFullscreen
In this frame grab from video from WPLG-TV, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., evacuate the school following a shooting. 
WPLG-TV via APFullscreenLike this topic? You may also like these photo galleries:

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AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideWho is the gunman?

Authorities identified the gunman as Nikolas Cruz, 19. Cruz, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, had been expelled from the school and did not graduate, authorities said. 

At least one teacher said he had been flagged as a potential threat and that he was a big enough concern that administrators had banned Cruz from campus. 

Jim Gard, a math teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said Cruz had been aggressive towards students in the past. 

A former classmate, Jillian Davis, said Cruz had a hot temper and a history of making dark, gun-related jokes. 

“Finding out it was him makes a lot of sense now,” Davis said.

Cruz’s first name also appears as Nicolas in some official records.

More: Suspect in fatal Florida school attack is former student with ‘anger’ issues

What happened:

Broward County Public Schools reported the shooting began near dismissal time, when staff and students said they heard the sounds of gunfire. 

Some students said a fire alarm sounded before the gunfire. Police say Cruz began the rampage outside before opening fire inside the high school. 

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told MSNBC that Cruz wore a gas mask and tossed smoke grenades to draw students out into the hallways. 

The school was placed on lockdown. Television footage showed students running from the school with their arms in the air, tossing backpacks into a pile. Some students were being treated on the sidewalks and loaded into ambulances.

Cruz was at large before being taken into custody off the school’s campus roughly two hours after the shooting.

Police said he was armed with an AR-15-style, semiautomatic rifle and “countless” magazines.

More: Florida school shooting is the 6th to injure students this year

Read more: 20 years in, shootings have changed schools in unexpected ways

‘Nikolas Cruz’ YouTube comment brings FBI to bail bondsman’s door

CLOSE

New reports reveal alleged south Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz was actually on the FBI’s radar, students joked he would quote “shoot up the school” one day, and his step-mom died of the flu.
Buzz60

Mississippi bail bondsman Ben Bennight said he received this comment in September 2017 on his YouTube page. The comment is seen in a YouTube video Bennight posted Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.(Photo: The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion Ledger)

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JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi bail bondsman got an eerie message in September that took on a whole new feel in the wake of the mass shooting in at a Florida high school Wednesday.

“Im going to be a professional school shooter,” the post read, and the poster’s name didn’t mean much at the time. 

It was “Nikolas Cruz.”

That’s the name of the 19-year-old accused of entering Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School wearing a gas mask, pulling a fire alarm, and opening fire on the students as they tried to evacuate. Seventeen people, including a football coach lost their lives in the attack.

Feb. 15: Florida school shooting suspect charged with premeditated murder

Feb. 15: Florida shooting suspect bought gun legally, authorities say

Ben Bennight has a YouTube channel called “BenTheBondsman” where he posts videos about things that happen in his line of work. That leads to a lot of crazy comments, he said. 

Being familiar with criminal matters and law enforcement, Bennight, who works for AFAB Bail Bonds in D’Iberville, Miss., took a screenshot and reported the post. According to the video he posted Wednesday night, he then contacted the FBI.

“I wish I could have given them more information but it was just a comment on my channel,” he said. 

YouTube removed the offensive comment. Bennight tried to send it to “[email protected],” an email address he found online. It bounced back. 

So he called his local field office. 

Feb. 15: Florida school shooting victims remembered as ‘hero,’ ‘baby girl,’ sweet angel’

Feb. 15: Warning signs for suspect in Florida school shooting: When can police act?

“I called and left a message. The next day I had two FBI agents standing in my office taking down my information, taking copies of the screenshot, asking questions of course I couldn’t answer,” he said.

People leave horrible comments on his YouTube videos all the time, Bennight said.

“I really didn’t think anything of it, but this comment said, ‘I’m going to be a professional school shooter,’ and I couldn’t just ignore that,” he said.

Many of those comments come from generic accounts, but this one came from someone whose name was Nikolas Cruz.

Five months later, after the shooting Wednesday afternoon, the FBI was back in touch.

“Today the FBI contacts me and first I talk to a guy from the Mississippi field office,” he said. Then he got a call from the Miami field office. 

Bennight admits that there’s not much help he can give beyond the screenshot since to his knowledge he had never interacted with Cruz before. Compounding the difficulty is that the comment had been deleted by YouTube so Bennight doesn’t remember which video it was on. 

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Kristi Gilroy hugs a young woman at a police check point near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman yesterday, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. 
MARK WILSON, GETTY IMAGESFullscreen
Sheree Spaulding stands with her 15-year-old son, Justin who is a 9th grader at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman yesterday, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. Police arrested the suspect after a short manhunt, and have identified him as 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz.  
MARK WILSON, GETTY IMAGESFullscreen
Sheree Spaulding walks with her 15-year-old son, Justin Spauling, who is a 9th grader at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman yesterday, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla.  
MARK WILSON, GETTY IMAGESFullscreen
Police control a road near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman yesterday, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. Police arrested the suspect after a short manhunt, and have identified him as 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz.  
MARK WILSON, GETTY IMAGESFullscreen
Law enforcement officers block off the entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla.  
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Law enforcement officers block off the entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Kristi Gilroy (2ndL), hugs a young woman as a police officer tries to clear a closed road at a police check point near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. Police arrested the suspect after a short manhunt, and have identified him as 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz.  
MARK WILSON, GETTY IMAGESFullscreen
Dr. Louis Yogel, chief of staff, right, address the media during a press briefing outside of Broward Health Medical Center. Dr. Benny Menendez, chief of emergency medicine, left, listens. 
Dorothy Edwards/Naples Daily NewsFullscreen
Dr. Benny Menendez, chief of emergency medicine, addresses the media during a press briefing outside of Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla, Wednesday. 
Dorothy Edwards/Naples Daily NewsFullscreen
Families reunite after a mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen
Max Charles, second from right, 14, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., speaks to members of the media after being picked up by family members at a nearby hotel, in Coral Springs, Fla. A former student opened fire at the Florida high school Wednesday, killing more than a dozen people and sending scores of students fleeing into the streets in the nation’s deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. 
Wilfredo Lee, APFullscreen
People wait outside the main entrance of Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. due to the hospital being on lockdown after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. 
Dorothy Edwards, Naples Daily News via USA TodayFullscreen
Sheree Spaulding hugs her son, Justin, 15, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland, Fla., as she speaks to members of the media after picking up her son at a nearby hotel, Wednesday, in Coral Springs, Fla. 
Wilfredo Lee, APFullscreen
Families reunite after a mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen
Jorge Zapata,16, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hugss his mother, Lavinia Zapata, after a mass shooting earlier in the day at the school. “I was just really incredibly, indescribably happy to see him, because you never know,” Lavinia said. 
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen
Families reunite after a mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen
Dalila Ladero, 16, of Coral Springs, Fla. stands near friends after being reunited with her mother at University Drive and Holmberg Road in Parkland. “When all that happened, I wasn’t in my class, I just started following people…I was just seeing everyone screaming and crying and I didn’t know what was happening,” she said. “I was calm, I just started praying.”  
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA Today NetworkFullscreen
Students wait outside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
XAVIER MASCARENAS, Treasure Coast Newspapers via USA Today NetworkFullscreen
Trauma surgeon Dr. Igor Nichiporenko (C) and director for emergency medicine Dr. Evan Boyar (R) address the media outside the Broward Health Emergency facility where victims were taken following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami, Wednesday. 
MICHELE EVE SANDBERG, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
A student reacts as she talks to a television reporter following a school shooting.
 
MICHELE EVE SANDBERG, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
Students react at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a school shooting.
 
MICHELE EVE SANDBERG, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
People react at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a school shooting.
 
MICHELE EVE SANDBERG, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
Students react at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a school shooting.
 
MICHELE EVE SANDBERG, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
Students run with their hands in the air following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Students released from a lockdown walk away following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
A young woman gets a hug outside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
AMY BETH BENNETT, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Police officers ride in the back of a pick up truck as they tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
A parent talks on cellphone waiting for news after a reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOEL AUERBACH, APFullscreen
Students wait to be picked up after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
People hug following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
A member of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office stands watch at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOEL AUERBACH, APFullscreen
Students released from a lockdown embrace following following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
Fire rescue vehicles arrive at Stoneman Douglas High School. 
JOHN MCCALL, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via APFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting in Parkland, Fla. Feb 14, 2018 
South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
The campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting that reportedly killed and injured multiple people. 
JOE RAEDLE, Getty ImagesFullscreen
Parents wait for news after a report of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. 
JOEL AUERBACH, APFullscreen
A law enforcement officer tells anxious family members to move back. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Anxious family members wait for information on students in Parkland, Fla.  
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
A student shows a law enforcement officer his phone. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
A law enforcement officer talks with students outside of the school. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Family members embrace after a student walked out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Anxious family members watch a rescue vehicle pass by in Parkland, Fla.  
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
Family members wait for news of students after a school shooting. 
WILFREDO LEE, APFullscreen
In this frame grab from video from WPLG-TV, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., evacuate the school following a shooting. 
WPLG-TV via APFullscreen
In this frame grab from video from WPLG-TV, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., evacuate the school following a shooting. 
WPLG-TV via APFullscreen
In this frame grab from  WPLG-TV, emergency personnel
wheel an injured person from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in
Parkland, Fla., following a shooting      
WPLG-TV via APFullscreen
In this frame grab from video from WPLG-TV, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., evacuate the school following a shooting. 
WPLG-TV via APFullscreen
In this frame grab from video from WPLG-TV, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., evacuate the school following a shooting. 
WPLG-TV via APFullscreenLike this topic? You may also like these photo galleries:

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AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext Slide

“Basically they’re going to have to get with YouTube on where the comment originally came from, but I think they already know,” he said. “They were at my house by 5 o’clock and it took them an hour to get there.”

“In September 2017, the FBI received information about a comment made on a YouTube channel. The comment said, ‘I’m going to be a professional school shooter.’ No other information was included in the comment which would indicate a particular time, location, or the true identity of the person who posted the comment,” said a statement released by Jackson, Miss., FBI field office spokesman Brett Car. “The FBI conducted database reviews and other checks, but was unable to further identify the person who posted the comment.”

Carr said the FBI has no further comment on the matter.

Bennight said in his video that the whole situation was so strange.

“From time to time, when you’re in the business that we’re in, and I put stuff out on YouTube so I’m kind of public, it’s not a big secret who I am and what I do,” he said. “I do get some unwanted attention. Being in the bonding business you sometimes get unwanted attention and information you’d rather not have… This is one of those situations.”

Feb. 15: ‘Disturbing’ Instagram posts: What Nikolas Cruz, suspected in Florida shooting, did online

Feb. 15: ‘No child, no teacher should ever be in danger in an American school,’ Trump says after Florida shooting

That communication, though, may help authorities as they pursue a case against the accused Broward County, Fla., school shooter. Bennight said he just wished he could have done more.

“I didn’t ignore it. I forwarded it to the proper authorities,” he said. “I guess it’s not something I’d rather not know, but I wish this information could have prevented this from  happening. … I’m not sure there’s anything the FBI could have done with that information besides keep an eye on somebody.”

On Thursday, Cruz was booked into jail on charges of premeditated murder.

Follow Therese Apel on Twitter:@TRex21

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