More Parkland parents sue FBI over botched tips about school shooter

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A memorial of flowers and colorful stones and messages adorn the corner of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school campus on the first anniversary of the shooting massacre, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019 in Parkland, Fla. - Emily Michot/Miami Herald/TNS

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Another set of parents are suing the FBI over how the agency botched tips about the Parkland shooter, leading to their child’s death in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

Andrew Pollack and Shara Kaplan, the parents of Meadow Pollack, who was 17 when she was shot a total of nine times during the massacre, filed their lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale federal court.

The lawsuit resembles ones filed by the parents of Jaime Guttenberg and Carmen Schentrup in November 2018. Guttenberg and Schentrup also were killed in the school shooting.

Their parents sued the FBI, saying the agency was liable for their deaths.

Pollack’s suit is similar. It argues that the FBI bears responsibility for the deaths, given that it was sitting on two separate tips about Nikolas Cruz’s violent behavior, mental instability and large cache of firearms.

According to the complaint, the FBI received its first tip about Cruz in October 2017, five months before the shooting.

A Mississippi bail bondsman with a YouTube channel received a message from Cruz that read, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

The affidavit states that the bail bondsman was interviewed by two FBI agents shortly afterward, but the FBI file on Cruz was closed out by October 2019.

Then, just one month before the shooting, the FBI’s tip line received a much more substantial and specific warning about Cruz from an anonymous caller.

“I know he’s going to explode,” the anonymous caller told the FBI tip line operator, before going into a detailed account of Cruz’s disturbing social media activity, in which the young man displayed “all kinds of rifles” and posted photographs of small animals he had killed.

During the call, the anonymous tipster specifically warned that Cruz might shoot up a school.

The civil complaint goes on to explain that the FBI operator connected the two tips together, but after conferring with her supervisor, the decision was made not to forward the complaints to the Miami field office of the FBI.

The complaint says that in the months following the massacre, the FBI essentially admitted to the public and to Congress that its own internal protocols for dealing with potential mass scooters had not been followed.

But in order for their wrongful death claims to succeed, the parents in both lawsuits will have to successfully argue that the FBI was required under Florida law to control Cruz’s actions, and that the agency was not just exercising its discretion in not responding to the tips about Cruz, say legal experts.

If the history of the Guttenberg and Schentrup’s lawsuit is any indicator, the Pollacks can expect the government to aggressively argue against their efforts to prove that the FBI bears responsibility for the violent death of their daughter.

That lawsuit has been inching forward.

According to federal court filings, a U.S. magistrate judge allowed lawyers for the plaintiffs the ability to view documents that may show exactly which FBI procedures where breached after the tip about Cruz was mishandled.

Those documents, along with many of the filings in the docket, remain under seal, but arguments are expected sometime in April on the government’s motion to dismiss the case from Guttenberg and Schentrup.

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©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)