Senate Judiciary Committee Holds School Safety Hearing The FBI says it received multiple tips about the alleged Florida school shooter but did not follow proper protocols and had to explain those failings to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

After Mishandling Parkland Shooter Tip, FBI Answers Questions From Congress

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As students staged walkouts across the country over gun violence, lawmakers on Capitol Hill sat down with federal law enforcement officials to talk about school safety. A Parkland parent and teacher also testified. NPR Justice reporter Ryan Lucas followed this and is here to tell us more. Hi, Ryan.


SHAPIRO: Let's start with the FBI. They've received a lot of criticism over how they handled tips about the alleged gunman. Did we learn anything new today about how that happened?

LUCAS: We got a few more details on the tips that the FBI received about the alleged shooter. Acting FBI Deputy Director David Bowditch said the FBI got two separate tips on Cruz. The first was in September about a comment posted on YouTube. Bowditch says the FBI checked it out. Agents couldn't figure out who posted it, so they dropped it.

SHAPIRO: But that was not the only tip. You said there were at least two separate tips.

LUCAS: That's right. The second one was when someone called into an FBI hotline in January. The tipster knew the shooter, knew that he had purchased weapons, knew that he wanted to kill people, expressed concerns that he might even shoot up a school. The FBI operator who took the call consulted with her supervisor. They discussed it, and the matter was closed. So the information was never forwarded to an FBI field office or to state or local law enforcement for them to follow up. So this does not look good for the FBI. Bowditch apologized for how the bureau handled the matter. He says they're reviewing how they deal with tips. And he says the FBI could have and probably should have done more. But he also says even if they did, there's no guarantee they could have prevented the massacre.

SHAPIRO: As I mentioned, a Parkland parent and teacher also testified today. What was their message for lawmakers?

LUCAS: Ryan Petty lost his daughter, Alaina. She was a freshman at the school. He expressed frustration with the FBI and local police that the alleged shooter was on the authorities' radar. And yet, he still managed to slip through the cracks. He also had some moving testimony in which he talked about the consequences of law enforcement and school officials not informing parents about the danger that the shooter posed.


RYAN PETTY: By this action or inaction, we were rendered powerless to fulfill our most sacred trust as parents - to protect our children.

LUCAS: Petty called on members of Congress not to focus on the differences that they have over guns and the whole Second Amendment debate. Instead, he said that they should follow the lead of what's happened in Florida, where lawmakers just passed a number of gun control and school safety measures. He says if they do that, Congress can get on the books now what Republicans and Democrats actually agree on. But he also says that he thinks it's important to identify troubled youth early and to get them the help that they need.

SHAPIRO: And what did the teacher, Katherine Posada, say?

LUCAS: She talked about the day of the shooting itself. Her English class was discussing, she said, Act 3 of "Macbeth" when the alarm went off. She described hiding with her students in the corner of the classroom, students getting phone calls and text messages from family worrying about their safety. And she says the students are going to wrestle with the psychological fallout of this for a long time. She mentioned how some students say loud noises or even the bell between classes makes them jump. And she called on Congress, as well, to use the current momentum for gun control to get what she called common-sense gun laws passed.

SHAPIRO: Any sense that that might happen?

LUCAS: There appears to be a bit of bipartisan support for things like improving the background check system, so creating incentives for states and feds to provide the records that they're really already required to provide. But listening to members of the Judiciary Committee today, Republicans and Democrats largely retreated to the usual corners. So Democrats were arguing in favor of a ban on assault weapons and other gun control measures. Republicans, on the other hand, focused on the missteps of law enforcement that allowed the Parkland shooting to happen. So in other words, it wasn't about the guns.

SHAPIRO: NPR Justice reporter Ryan Lucas, thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you.

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