Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearing a month after Stoneman Douglas massacre

Acting FBI deputy director vows to 'correct our mistakes'

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre one month after the shooting. 

Acting FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich testified Wednesday, telling lawmakers that the agency failed in not following up on tips about school shooter Nikolas Cruz. 

"Do I think we could have changed the course of the outcome here? I don't know," Bowdich said. 

Senators began the three-panel hearing by expressing the need for change in current gun laws. Both senators from Florida spoke during the hearing, with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson pushing for stronger background checks and an assault weapons ban.

"At the end of the day, you're not going to stop these massacres until you get at these two commonsense things that I've suggested," Nelson said. 

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio also called for lawmakers to work together to find solutions.

"Out of tragedy and heartbreak, the families of the 17 victims in Parkland came together and they decided that they would set aside for a moment their differences on all sorts of other issues so they could come together and fight hard on the things they agreed on. I believe that should serve as an example to this body," he said. 

But the main focus of the hearing was figuring out where federal officials went wrong.

The FBI acknowledged that the agency received two tips about Cruz. 

The first came from a YouTube blogger, who forwarded the FBI a comment made on one of his videos. The user's name was "Nikolas Cruz" and the comment read, "I’m going to be a professional school shooter." The FBI claimed it could not locate the user.

Then, in January, a caller told the FBI they were worried about Cruz's gun ownership and desire to kill people. The operator ran his name through the system and saw the previous tip from the YouTube blogger, but the case was closed. That tip never made it to the FBI's Miami field office.

"The FBI could have and should have done more to investigate the information it was provided prior to the shooting. We will never know if we could have prevented this tragedy. We clearly should have done more," Bowdich said. 

After investigating what the FBI knew, and what they did and didn't do, the FBI deputy director said the results of the investigation concluded that the bureau did not follow proper protocols.

"When we make mistakes we will not hide from them. And we are committed, with your help, to doing whatever is necessary to correct our mistakes," he said. 

Lawmakers said they want to know why that FBI employee did not see the red flags.

"Is that FBI employee considered to be a diligent person?" U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asked Bowdich.  

"Senator, I don't know the employee personally," Bowdich said.

"That's good enough," Grassley said. "If you can't answer it, don't answer it."

About the Author:

Jenise Fernandez joined the Local 10 News team in November 2014. She is thrilled to be back home reporting for the station she grew up watching. Jenise, who is from Miami and graduated from Florida International University, also interned at Local 10 while she was in college.