AP NEWS

A look at FBI call center that failed to flag tip on shooter

February 17, 2018

A video monitor shows school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz, center, making an appearance before Judge Kim Theresa Mollica in Broward County Court, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz is accused of opening fire Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing more than a dozen people and injuring several. (Susan Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

More than a month before 17 people were killed at a Florida high school, the FBI got a tip warning that the suspect wanted to kill people and was planning to carry out a school shooting.

The tipster also said Nikolas Cruz owned guns, was acting erratically and had made disturbing social media posts.

The information provided by the caller should’ve been assessed as a potential threat to life and passed to a field office, the FBI said. But it never reached agents in Florida and no investigation was launched.

It was one of hundreds of thousands of tips received annually by the FBI’s public tip line — 1-800-CALL-FBI. Here’s a look at how the agency analyzes tips:

____

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CALL THE FBI TIP LINE?

Representatives at the public access line — the bureau’s tip center in West Virginia — are responsible for taking information from the public.

If a tip appears credible and warrants further investigation, it is supposed to be forwarded to an FBI field office.

Other tips sometimes involve non-criminal incidents and aren’t passed along, while threats against politicians, including the president, could be referred to the Secret Service.

Before the call center opened in 2012, field offices handled their own tips, which could inundate agents.

Officials have encouraged the public to use the line after nearly every major U.S. terror attack or mass shooting in the past few years.

____

HOW MANY CALLS ARE RECEIVED?

On average, more than 2,100 calls were received each day in 2017, and the more than 150 employees who work for the tip line answered a total of 766,888 calls for the year.

Since the tip line opened, it has received more than 2 million calls that resulted in thousands of actionable tips and leads for special agents and intelligence analysts, the FBI says.

____

WHAT SHOULD’VE HAPPENED WITH THE TIP ABOUT NIKOLAS CRUZ?

The information should have been “assessed as a potential threat to life,” the FBI said, and forwarded to the agents in the Miami field office to investigate.

The FBI and Department of Justice are investigating why the tip about Cruz was not sent to field agents.

____

WHAT KIND OF TRAINING DO CALL-TAKERS RECEIVE?

Attendants are trained to gather information that might aid investigations. They are taught listening and communications skills, undergo classroom training and receive on-the-job training with other representatives to learn how to write reports.

____

Follow Michael Balsamo on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mikebalsamo1 .

____

Follow the AP’s complete coverage of the Florida school shooting here: https://apnews.com/tag/Floridaschoolshooting .

AP RADIO
Update hourly