The 19-year-old who opened fire at a Florida high school Wednesday afternoon left a haunting YouTube comment last year.
Ben Bennight, a 36-year-old vlogger from Mississippi, was alarmed when he received a YouTube Studio alert about a new comment on one of his videos in September. “Im going to be a professional school shooter,” the comment read, left by a user named Nikolas Cruz, the same name of the suspected gunman who killed 17 people and wounded at least 14 others.
Bennight took action within the hour, emailing a screenshot to the FBI and calling the bureau’s local field office. The vlogger reports that the FBI responded “immediately” and met with Bennight for an interview the following day.
“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.” Until yesterday.
The FBI confirmed on Thursday morning that they received a report last year, but would not confirm whether they have since verified that the account to Cruz.
“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,” said Robert Laski, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami division, during a press conference. “The FBI conducted database reviews, checks but was unable to further identify the person who actually made the comment.”
Agents paid Bennight another visit on Wednesday afternoon to follow up on the September incident.
“I think we spoke with you in the past about a complaint that you made about someone making a comment on your YouTube channel,” agents said in a voicemail to Bennight about 30 minutes after Cruz was arrested, which was 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.”
“They asked me if I knew who he was. I didn’t. I don’t. I saw the story kind of go across my newsfeed, but I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it,” he told CNN. “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.”
“People leave pretty heinous comments on a pretty regular basis on this channel and I really didn’t think anything of it,” the vlogger told viewers in a video Wednesday night. Bennight is a bail bondsman, and dedicates many of his videos to talking about bail bonds, bounty hunting, and similar topics. Titles range from ‘Life of a bondsman’ to ‘Getting someone out of jail.’
“But this comment said, ‘I’m going to be a professional school shooter’ and I knew that I couldn’t just ignore that.”
As of Wednesday night, the account that left the comment has been terminated by YouTube.