UPDATED: The Florida High School Shooter Has Zero Ties To Local White Nationalist Group

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Posted: Feb 15, 2018 2:08 PM
UPDATED: The Florida High School Shooter Has Zero Ties To Local White Nationalist Group

Editor's Note: Headline has been changed to reflect accuracy.


UPDATE: Well, this story took another turn, with local law enforcement saying they found no ties between Cruz and the Republic of Florida (via Tallahassee Democrat):

Local law enforcement sources have so far not found a connection between accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz and a Tallahassee-based paramilitary group.

Leon County law enforcement sources told the Tallahassee Democrat that they could not find information linking Cruz, 19, to the Republic of Florida Militia, as first reported by the group’s self-proclaimed leader Jordan Jereb.

Leon County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Grady Jordan said investigative work Thursday did not yield any connections.

“We are still doing some work but we have no known ties between the ORF, Jordan Jereb or the Broward shooter,” Jordan said.

Jordan and other law enforcement sources declined to confirm whether they had spoken to Jereb on Thursday.

Jereb said that Cruz was a member of his organization earlier today, though now says he was confused when questioned. This story is still developing.

UPDATE II: It looks like we're been duped, folks. Our apologies...

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Nikolas Cruz committed an act of unspeakable evil yesterday. He ventured back to his former high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, in Parkland, Florida, and shot and killed 17 people. He wounded at least a dozen more. Whether he was flagged as a threat to students in the past remains to be confirmed. The Miami Herald reported that Cruz, who was expelled from the school, was the subject of a warning email last year from the administration, flagging him as a threat and stating he was not allowed on campus with a backpack.  

Cruz was initially reported as an associate of a local white nationalist group, Republic of Florida, but that seems doubtful, as local law enforcement could find no evidence of any such ties. The leader of the group, saying he was misunderstood and confused when questioned. ABC News reported on the now-debunked link, with the Associated Press tweeting about it as well. It's a dead end, folks. CBS News had the story of the ROF's leader, Jordan Jereb, backtracking on his initial remarks:

The leader of a white nationalist militia Thursday night appeared to walk back his earlier statements that Florida shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz was a member of his group. Law enforcement in Tallahassee, Florida, said they had no record of Cruz being part of the organization.

Jordan Jereb, the leader of Republic of Florida, told the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Thursday that Cruz participated in paramilitary drills in Tallahassee. Someone posting under his name on Gab, a social media site popular with far-right extremists, complained about getting criticized over a "prank," claimed there was a "misunderstanding" and said he received "a bunch of conflicting information."

Yet, Cruz was previously reported to the FBI for making disturbing comments on a YouTube page (via Miami Herald):

Thursday morning, the FBI special agent in charge for South Florida told reporters that agents — after “reviews and checks” — could not identify the user behind the YouTube comment.

“We were unable to identify the person who made the comment,” said Rob Lasky said at a press conference, also saying that no other information was included with that comment which would “indicate a time, location, or the true identity of the person who made the comment.”

[…]

Ben Bennight, a Gulfport bail bondsman who goes by “Ben the Bondsman” on YouTube, said in a video posted Wednesday night that he spoke to FBI agents in September about a comment left on one of his videos by someone with the username “nikolas cruz.”

“Im going to be a professional school shooter,” the commenter wrote.

In the video, Bennight says he immediately reported the comment to YouTube and to the local FBI field office. The next day, agents were in his business asking about the comment.

“I knew that I couldn’t just ignore that,” he said on the video he posted.

On Wednesday, FBI agents in Mississippi and South Florida contacted Bennight again in the hours after the shooting to ask questions about the disturbing comment.

There will be many stories about what could have been done to prevent this shooting. With Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard shooter, his rampage could have been prevented if his disturbing behavior had been properly reported. He would have lost his clearance, barring him from the facility. Now, this YouTube user did the right thing reporting this to the FBI, but it went nowhere. A lot of what is said on social media needs to be taken with a grain of salt, especially in the comments section. Bennight alluded to this point saying, "I wish that the information could have prevented this from happening, but it was a generic comment, and you know, people say things. Keyboard commandos type things all the time that they don’t mean.”

Still, this FBI angle seems to be a bit odd, no?