The FBI may have had prior warning that the man suspected of murdering 17 people at a Florida high school wanted to be a “professional school shooter,” according to a YouTube user who noticed the disturbing comment under one of his videos.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, had a history of posting disturbing content to his social media accounts, and according to one of his classmates, he “seemed like the kind of kid who would do something like this.”
On Wednesday, YouTube user Ben Bennight posted a video to the platform claiming that in September 2017, a user named “Nikolas Cruz” commented on one of his videos from 2009.
“Im going to be a professional school shooter,” the comment read.
Bennight, whose YouTube username is “BentheBondsman,” took screenshots of the comment, and alerted both the FBI and the social media platform. “I knew that I couldn’t just ignore that,” Bennight said, according to the New York Daily News.
The eerie comment, which has since been deleted, was posted under a video about the 1996 clock tower sniper incident at the University of Texas.
After Bennight told the FBI about the comment, agents with the bureau paid him a brief visit.
“They came to my office the next morning and asked me if I knew anything about the person,” Bennight told BuzzFeed News. “I didn’t. They took a copy of the screenshot and that was the last I heard from them.”
Do you think the shooter should receive the death penalty?
Then, after Cruz allegedly opened fire with an AR-15 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida, Bennight got a phone call from the bureau.
“I think we spoke with you in the past about a complaint that you made about someone making a comment on your YouTube channel,” an FBI agent said in a 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.”
Agents with the FBI’s Mississippi office soon visited Bennight in person.
“They asked me if I knew who he was. I didn’t. I don’t,” he said. “Then they left.”
In his Wednesday video, Bennight suggested that it’s possible the FBI was able to identify the suspected shooter so quickly because they were already aware of the YouTube comment.
“I would like to think that they were already investigating this guy and they had him (a) the top of their radar and that’s how they contacted me so quickly,” Bennight stated. “I wish that the information could have prevented this from happening.”
Meanwhile, in addition to the YouTube comment, Cruz’s prior actions set off red flags among his classmates and teachers.
“I stayed clear of him most of the time. He’s been a troubled kid, and he’s always had a certain amount of issues going on. He shot guns because he felt it gave him, I guess, an exhilarating feeling. He showed me (his guns) personally through his phone,” one student at the school told WSVN.
“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him. There were problems with him last year threatening students. I guess he was asked to leave campus,” Cruz’s former math teacher, Jim Gard, told the Miami Herald.
Cruz was charged Thursday with 17 counts of premeditated murder.