Trump criticises FBI over handling of Florida school shooting suspect tip

The FBI received a tip last month that the suspect in the Florida school shooting had a “desire to kill” and access to guns and could be plotting an attack. But the agency said Friday that agents failed to investigate.

world Updated: Feb 18, 2018 23:16 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Associated Press, West Palm Beach
Florida School Shooting,Donald Trump,FBI
Donald J. Trump speaks during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (AP File Photo)

US president Donald Trump has criticised FBI accusing it of missing “many signals” about the Florida massacre shooter as it was “spending too much time” trying to prove Trump campaign colluded with Russian meddling in 2016 elections.

The accusation came in a tweet that critics saw as inappropriately timed and insensitive, posted as families of the 17 people killed in the high school shooting, including 14 students, were till burying their dead. The president pressed on with more posts, but kept them to the Russia probe.

“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter.,” he wrote in the first tweet. “This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign - there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”

The FBI on Friday admitted a person close to the Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz had called called its tip-line in January to say the young man possessed a gun, had displayed a desire to kill people and conduct a school shooting. But the information was not passed on, in a serious breach of protocol; it should have been passed on to the FBI field office.

“We are still investigating the facts,” FBI director Christopher Wray said in a statement, adding, “We have spoken with victims and families, and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy.”

Cruz, a 19-year-old, returned to his former high school in Parkland, Florida, last Wednesday with an AR-15 military style semi-automatic assault rifle and killed 17 people in a massacre that has reignited calls for stricter gun control laws.

Cruz had been the on the radar of authorities and had been investigated by police in 2016 for slashing his arm on a video post in which he had also said he wanted to buy guns. There were other social media postings that had also raised red flags about his potential to do harm.

“Last September, FBI was sent a screenshot of a comment by Nikolas Cruz,” Ann Coulter, a firebrand conservative commentator, wrote on Twitter, “Unfortunately, the FBI was busy running down Clinton campaign leads about a nonexistent Russian conspiracy with Trump.”

The same day that the FBI acknowledged missing the tip, Special Counsel Robert Mueller III announced first direct indictments in the Russia probe charging 13 Russian individuals and three organizations with criminal conspiracy to discredit the US political system and help Trump and damage his Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Though the Russians were in touch with “unwitting” members of the Trump campaign the indictment did not say there was collusion, which was stressed in the announcement as well that there was no “allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity”.

President Trump, who had declared he had felt vindicated that the indictment alleged no collusion as he had long maintained, has also been bene very critical, and publicly, of the FBI attacking it relentlessly, including over its investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server.

He has accused the leadership of the FBI and its supervisory body the Department of Justice — all of whom are his appointees — of “politicizing the sacred investigative process”.

First Published: Feb 18, 2018 10:56 IST