Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz has become the latest mass killer who was able to carry out his sick slaughter due in part to law enforcement’s failure to heed warnings of disturbing behavior and because of lapses in the background check process.
The FBI admitted on Friday it received a call just over a month before Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, killing 17 people.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he ordered an “immediate review” after it emerged the bureau had not acted on a Jan. 5 call from a person close to Cruz who contacted the FBI through its Public Access Line tipline to express concerns about Cruz’s erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts. The person said Cruz may have aspired to be a “school shooter.”
Besides the tip last month to the FBI, the 19-year-old was also investigated by social services and mental health professionals in 2016 after disturbing Snapchat videos — which showed him cutting both his arms — were uncovered. But Cruz avoided hospitalization, according to a Florida Department of Children and Families report obtained by Fox News.
State investigators found Cruz to be low risk, and investigators felt he was unlikely to hurt himself or others because he had “services already in place,” including receiving counseling from Henderson Behavioral Health.
Florida DCF closed the investigation into Cruz on Nov. 12, 2016 “based on his caregiver’s protective capacity, in-home services through Henderson, and engagement in school.”
During the DCF investigation, Cruz’s adoptive mother told caseworkers that Cruz did not own a firearm. Cruz purchased a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 rifle in February 2017 from a licensed gun store located about three miles from the school, law enforcement officials said.
If Cruz wanted a handgun, however, the sale wouldn’t have been allowed. Federal laws allow people as young as 18 to buy semi-automatic weapons from licensed dealers, while handgun purchases are restricted to those 21 and older.
Cruz had his gun for about seven months when he commented on YouTube that he was “going to be a professional school shooter.” The FBI has said it investigated the incident, but was unable to identify the person who posted the comment despite Cruz using his actual name as his YouTube user name.
Here are some other recent mass murderers that have slipped through the cracks in the system:
DEVIN PATRICK KELLEY — SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TEXAS
The man behind the massacre that killed 25 people at a Texas church in November 2017 had a history of domestic abuse. But Devin Patrick Kelley was able to purchase guns because information about his crimes was never entered into a federal database used for background checks.
Kelley purchased four guns, including the AR-15-style rifle and handguns found in and near First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, from licensed dealers in Texas and Colorado over a four-year span.
The 26-year-old passed required background checks because the Air Force never informed the FBI about his criminal conduct — which included an assault on his wife and her child that led to a court-martial, a year of confinement and a bad conduct discharge. Military rules require the information to be shared.
Kelley was convicted at a court-martial for choking his then-wife and fracturing her son’s skull in 2012.
Besides the lapse by the Air Force, officials in Texas disclosed in records released Friday they didn’t pursue a sexual assault investigation against Kelley in 2013, even though the woman reporting it signed a complaint detailing the alleged attack.
Authorities said the alleged victim was not given a forensic exam in June 2013 after reporting the assault, which she said had occurred three days earlier. The investigation was then listed as inactive because a detective at the Comal County sheriff’s office couldn’t contact Kelley, thinking he had moved.
The 2013 case remained inactive even after deputies were called to Kelley’s home in February 2014 to investigate a separate domestic violence complaint against him.
“This was an error on the part of the sheriff’s office,” Comal County Sheriff Mark Reynolds told The Associated Press.
A 1996 law bans people convicted of even a misdemeanor-level domestic violence offense from owning guns.
KEVIL NEAL — RANCHO TEHAMA RESERVE, CALIFORNIA
The man who killed five people in a rural northern California community in November 2017 had violent squabbles with his neighbors and his wife, but was not arrested for previously violating a court order prohibiting him from having guns.
Police said at the time, neighbors repeatedly complained about Kevin Neal, 44, firing hundreds of rounds from his house — among other erratic and violent behavior. While authorizes responded to the home several times, Neal wouldn’t open the door so they left, Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said at the time.
“He was not law enforcement friendly. He would not come to the door,” Johnston said during a news conference. “You have to understand we can’t anticipate what people are going to do. We don’t have a crystal ball.”
At the time of the 25-minute rampage, Neal was out of custody on bail after being charged in January 2017 with stabbing one of the neighbors he later killed. After the January assault, a judge barred Neal from having guns, according to court records. The records also show Neal was charged with illegally firing a weapon and possessing an illegal assault rifle on Jan. 31.
He was charged with five felonies and two misdemeanors. As part of a protective order that barred him from “owning, possessing, purchasing or attempting to purchase firearms,” Neal was ordered to stay away from the two female neighbors he had threatened. Johnston initially said Neal “was not prohibited from owning firearms” but later acknowledged the protective order against him.
Neal certified that he surrendered his weapons in February, but authorities said they had recovered two homemade assault rifles and two handguns registered to someone else after the shooting rampage. After being pressed by reporters on why police did not act when Neal was in clear violation of his court order, Johnston replied: “The law is only for people who obey it.”
DYLANN ROOF — CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
A drug arrest in the months before Dylann Roof killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. should have prevented him from using the pistol in that massacre, but a clerical error allowed the transaction to go through.
A jail clerk at the time made an error when entering the incorrect location for Roof’s drug arrest in February 2015, which was not corrected in the state police database of arrests.
The FBI said at the time a background check examiner never saw the arrest report and couldn’t find details when Roof wanted to buy a gun because the wrong arresting agency was listed in state criminal history records.
The background check found nothing after three days, and Roof was eventually allowed to buy the .45-caliber handgun authorities said was used in the June 17, 2015 shooting.
Fox News’ Katherine Lam, Lucia Suarez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Joe Biden takes oath of office to become America’s 46th president | US News
Joe Biden has become the 46th president of the United States, after taking his oath of office in a heavily scaled back inauguration ceremony in Washington DC.
He swore to preserve, protect and defend America to the sound of cheers and applause from former presidents both Democrat and Republican – though Donald Trump decided to break precedent by skipping the event.
It came minutes after new Vice President Kamala Harris took her oath, too.
Mr Biden stressed the fairness of last November’s election result in the opening of his inaugural address by declaring: “This is democracy’s day. The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.
“We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile and at this hour my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
Mr Biden promised to “press forward with speed and urgency” during a “winter of peril” to tackle the “once-in-a-century virus that silently stalks the country”, also vowing to confront white supremacy and terrorism.
He stressed his prevailing focus after a divisive election campaign will be on “uniting our nation”, adding: “With unity, we can do great things, important things – we can right wrongs.”
And he said he wanted to “make America once again a leading force for good in the world”, seemingly in a snub to Mr Trump commenting: “Let’s start afresh… all of us.”
Mr Biden urged people to “join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature”, for, he explained, without unity there will be “no nation, only a state of chaos”.
Speaking as he looked out on to the National Mall lit by a bright sunshine, Mr Biden continued: “Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path.
“Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war and we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.”
Repeating a motif from his victory speeches in the days after winning the Electoral College vote, Mr Biden promised to be “a president for all Americans”.
Winding up his address, he struck an optimistic tone, saying: “Together we shall write an American story of hope not fear, of unity not division, of light not darkness.”
He ended with: “May God bless America and may God protect our troops, thank you America.”
Lady Gaga, wearing a large dove broach on her top and clasping a golden microphone, had just performed a rousing rendition of the national anthem – and Jennifer Lopez followed with an “American musical selection”.
Former presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton attended the event at the Capitol – and Mr Biden was greeted by cheers and applause as he walked up to the stage.
Mr Biden shared a fist-bump with Barack Obama before the pair took their seats, and then a series of speeches got underway – all sharing a theme of unity.
But as the new president prepared to take the oath of office, Donald Trump was landing in Florida.
Mr Trump is the first outgoing president since 1869 to skip an inauguration ceremony, but departing Vice President Mike Pence was in the audience.
As the inauguration ceremony took place in a chilly Washington DC, where it was trying to snow, the White House was getting a deep clean that was set to cost $500,000 (£366,000).
Shortly before the ceremony began, Mr Biden declared on Twitter: “It’s a new day in America.”
Mr Trump gave a parting message before boarding Air Force One, telling a small group of supporters and family members gathered on the tarmac of Joint Base Andrews that “we will be back in some form”.
“I wish the new administration great luck and great success,” he added, before boarding the plane, which took off to the booming soundtrack of Frank Sinatra’s My Way.
Mr Biden is only the second Catholic to hold the office of president.
His team have already announced he will sign a series of executive orders reversing several of Mr Trump’s policies, including on COVID-19, climate change and racial inequality.
Australian Open: Novak Djokovic says he is not ‘selfish, difficult and ungrateful’ for quarantine requests | World News
Tennis star Novak Djokovic has insisted he was not being “selfish, difficult and ungrateful” after making a list of requests for players in quarantine ahead of the Australian Open.
The men’s world number one reportedly sent a letter to Australian officials asking for a reduction in the time players spend in isolation, permission to see coaches and for athletes to be moved to private houses.
His suggestions were firmly rebuffed by Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews, who said: “People are free to provide lists of demands, but the answer is no… There’s no special treatment here.”
A total of 72 players are in quarantine after 10 people who flew to Melbourne for the first Grand Slam of the year tested positive for coronavirus – leaving many forced to train in their hotel rooms.
Djokovic has since defended speaking out about the quarantine conditions, writing in a lengthy social media post: “My good intentions for my fellow competitors in Melbourne have been misconstrued as being selfish, difficult and ungrateful.
“This couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
He said his email exchange regarding suggestions for the quarantine conditions was an “opportunity to brainstorm” and he was “aware that the chances were low that any of our suggestions would be accepted”.
“There were a few suggestions and ideas that I gathered from other players from our chat group and there was no harm intended to try and help,” he said.
While many players are under the strictest quarantine conditions and unable to leave their rooms, others who were not on the affected flights – including Djokovic – are able to train outside for five hours a day under COVID-secure protocols.
The star player said he wanted to use his “position of privilege” to help others.
“I’ve earned my privileges the hard way and for that reason it is very difficult for me to be a mere onlooker knowing how much every help, gesture and good word mattered to me when I was small and insignificant in the world pecking order,” he said.
He added: “Things in the media escalated and there was a general impression that the players (including myself) are ungrateful, weak and selfish because of their unpleasant feelings in quarantine.
“I am very sorry that it has come that because I do know how grateful many are.”
Going ahead with the tournament amid the global pandemic and harsh restrictions in Melbourne has caused some controversy, particularly as many Australians remain stuck overseas.
Three new coronavirus cases related to the tournament were reported on Wednesday, including a player who has been in hard lockdown since they arrived.
The second case related to another player and the third is a support person with the player.
Madrid: ‘Extremely loud’ explosion in city centre – reports of injuries | World News
An “extremely loud” explosion has been reported in Madrid’s city centre – with rescue teams, firefighters and police sent to the scene.
Spanish media reports said the explosion took place in a building near a nursing home – and videos and images shared on social media showed rubble scattered in the street.
“We didn’t know where the sound came from. We all thought it was from the school. We went up the stairs to the top of our building and we could see the structure of the building and lots of grey smoke,” a witness told the AP news agency.
The explosion happened in Toledo street. Video on social media showed a number of wrecked cars and debris strewn in the road.
According to TVE, several people have been hurt, while Telemadrid is reporting that at least one person is trapped.
Emergency services could not immediately confirm if there had been injuries.
A police spokeswoman said the area was being evacuated but could not confirm the cause of the explosion.
Government sources have been quoted by Spanish media as saying it may have been a gas leak.
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