Hours after police identified the suspect in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, a YouTube user named “BentheBondsman,” whose full name is Ben Bennight, posted a video claiming that he had previously warned the FBI about the teen (or, at least, about a YouTube user that shared the same name as the teen). Bennight, 36, is from Mississippi. The account that commented on his page was taken down Wednesday night.
FBI Special Agent Robert Lasky, who runs the agency’s Miami office, said Thursday at a press conference that in 2017 the FBI received a tip about a comment made on a YouTube channel that said, “I want to be a professional school shooter.” Lasky said there was no information about a possible time connected to the threat or any identifying information other than the name of the user. Lasky said agents investigated, but were unable to further identify who made the comment.
Nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz was taken into custody on February 14, after police say that he showed up at his former high school and opened fire using an assault rifle. Cruz had previously been expelled from the school, but officials declined to explain those particular circumstances.
“BentheBondsman” claims that someone with the username “Nikolas Cruz” commented on one of his YouTube videos back in September writing, “I want to be a professional school shooter.” Upon seeing the comment, Ben said that he took a screenshot and then reported the comment to YouTube. YouTube deleted the comment, but Ben felt as though he needed to do more. He tried emailing the FBI, but the email that he found kicked back an error. He found a phone number to his local field office and left a message, letting them know about the disturbing comment.
“The next day, I had two FBI agents standing in my office, taking down the information, taking copies of the screenshot, and asking me questions that, of course, I couldn’t answer,” Ben explained. He said that it was a comment that he couldn’t ignore, and even though he didn’t have a lot of information to give authorities, he felt that he needed to alert them either way.
Ben went on to say that the FBI contacted him after they made an arrest in Wednesday’s school shooting in Florida. An agent working in Mississippi (where Ben lives) called him first and wanted to question Ben in person. While they were on the phone, an agent from the Miami office called Ben. He said that he told the FBI agents everything that he knew.
“I would like to think that they were already investigating this guy and they had him [at] the top of their radar and that’s how they contacted me so quickly,” Ben said. “I wish that the information could have prevented this from happening,” he added later.
CNN reports that a user named Nikolas Cruz left comments on several Youtube videos in which he talked about shooting people and violence.
Nine months ago, the user posted on a video clip from the NatGeo show “Alaska State Troopers: Armed and Dangerous,” writing, “I am going to kill law enforcement one day they go after the good people.”
Six months ago, the user wrote, “Im going watch them sheep fall f*ck antifa i wish to kill as many as i can,” on a Youtube video titled “Antifa Gun Club.”
Also nine months ago, Cruz commented, “I am going to do what he did,” on a video about the 1966 sniper shooting at the University of Texas.
CNN says the user wrote on other posts, “I whana shoot people with my AR-15 (sic)” and “I wanna die Fighting killing shit ton of people.” The user also wrote, “Elliot rodger will not be forgotten,” a reference to the 22-year-old California man who killed six people and wounded 14 others near UC Santa Barbara in 2014 before killing himself.
Bennight told Buzzfeed News the agents first came to his office September 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.”
On Wednesday, about 4:30 p.m., Bennight told Buzzfeed he received a call from a FBI agent based in Miami.
“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 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.”
Two agents came and talked to Bennight. He told Buzzfeed, “They asked me if I knew who he was. I didn’t. I don’t. Then they left.”
The FBI has not confirmed that the YouTube account belongs to the accused shooter.
“People leave pretty heinous comments on a pretty regular basis on this channel and I really didn’t think anything of it,” Bennight said in his Youtube video about the comment. “But this comment said, ‘I’m going to be a professional school shooter’ and I knew I couldn’t just ignore that.
CNN reports that a second threat was reported to the FBI. They were not passed on to local law enforcement, according to CNN.
“I saw the story kind of go across my newsfeed but I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it, but when the FBI said it was the same name the first thing that went through my mind was, ‘Wow, I hope you were at least watching this guy that I alerted you to months ago,'” Bennight told CNN.
Students at the school who know Cruz have shared some other chilling details about him. Many of them referenced his social media accounts, which were filled with pictures of guns and knives. Additionally, many mentioned that Cruz was a troubled kid and that people stayed away from him. In one chilling interview, a student said that kids at the school always knew that Cruz would do something like this.
“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 teen 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.
“A lot of people were saying it was going to be him. A lot of kids threw jokes around saying that he was going to be the one to shoot up the school. It turns out that everyone predicted it. That’s crazy,” a student told WFOR-TV.
Despite the way that many people felt about Cruz, Broward County School District Superintendent Robert Runcie said that the school didn’t receive any complaints about him previously.
“We received no warnings. Potentially there could have been signs out there. But we didn’t have any warning or phone calls or threats that were made,” he said during a press conference on Wednesday.
Witnesses say that the suspect was wearing a mask and carrying smoke grenades. He tried to mesh in with a group of fleeing students in an effort to escape without drawing attention to himself, but police were able to identify him and make an arrest.
According to NBC News, 17 people were killed in the shooting. Another 14 people were injured and five of those patients are still listed in critical condition.
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