It appears that suspected Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz was known to the FBI as a threat back in September 2017 thanks to a YouTuber who alerted authorities over a comment left on a video.
A Mississippi bail bondsman and frequent YouTube blogger noticed an alarming comment left on one of his videos, BuzzFeed News reports. "I'm going to be a professional school shooter," said a user named Nikolas Cruz.
Ben Bennight, 36, reportedly alerted the FBI, emailing a screenshot of the comment to the bureau's tips account. He also alerted YouTube, which removed the comment from the video.
Agents from the Mississippi field office responded "immediately" to Bennight's tip and conducted an in-person interview the following day, Sept. 25.
“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.”
FBI agents contacted Bennight again Wednesday, after a 19-year-old named Nikolas Cruz allegedly opened fire at a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in south Florida, killing at least 17 people.
In the wake of the deadly shooting, questions have emerged over whether authorities, school officials or acquaintances had missed warning signs about the alleged shooter, who was asked to leave the high school the year before for disciplinary reasons.
The FBI would not confirm to BuzzFeed News whether the YouTube comment's account belonged to Cruz, but around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, about 30 minutes after Cruz was taken into custody by police in Broward County, a special agent with the Miami field office called Bennight and left him a voicemail
"I think we spoke with you in the past about a complaint that you made about someone making a comment on your YouTube channel," the agent, Ryan Furr, said in the message, which Bennight provided to BuzzFeed News. "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."
Later, FBI agents in Mississippi again visited Bennight in person, pressing for more information about the YouTuber Nikolas Cruz.
"They asked me if I knew who he was, I didn't. I don't," Bennight said. "Then they left."
The YouTube account remained active until Wednesday evening. It has since been deleted due to "multiple or severe violations of YouTube's policy on violence."