Law enforcement officials are saying there were a number of “very disturbing” social media posts made by the suspected gunman in advance of the massacre at the Parkland, Fl. high school.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube are all a part of everyday life for many, but what happens online doesn’t always get talked about at the dinner table.
Nikolas Cruz had a digital profile spattered with gun and violence related posts on social media, police said.
A YouTube account with his name made a comment in September saying “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”
The FBI received a report about the post as one of two threat reports they had received about Cruz.
The attorney for the family Cruz lived with said they knew nothing about his social media activity.
“They got him a job, they were helping him get his GED, they didn't see anything like this coming,” said the family’s attorney James Lewis.
Scott Driscoll works in law enforcement but is also the owner of a company that focuses on teaching people about internet safety, called Internet Safety Concepts.
“A lot of us use social media every day, and we say things and we see things and we like and dislike things. I think it’s important that we get involved to and if we see something that’s alarming we notify the authorities on what we see,” Driscoll said.
But how do you decipher something that’s alarming versus just everyday ranting and raving?
“It could be a challenge but when in doubt, check it out because when you get other people looking at it and you get more sets of eyes looking at one thing we all perceive things differently someone might look at it one way or the other it’s good to report it because the more people look at it the better chance we have at figuring out if it’s something we need to look into or something that is just a comment,” Driscoll said.
He added that there is a line of privacy that you want to keep with your children, but what’s being said online could have important implications for what happens in reality.
“It’s important for families to talk about this, the good, the bad and the ugly,” Driscoll said.
If anything seems out of the ordinary, it should be reported to police.
“It’s better to talk it out then deal with something that could’ve been prevented,” he said.
Josh Quint is a crime analyst that works at the Hartford Police Department’s command center.
“We do everything from cell phone forensics, to video forensics, video enhancement. This is just an example of it,” Quint said.
Gathering intelligence is one of the biggest parts of his job even as officers are responding to an accident or shooting.
“We get the same call that the patrol guys are being given, all the information. Immediately we will go to our band of 850 cameras here in the city and we’ll start to review the footage as the officers are responding to the scene,” Quint said. “If we find anything that’s relevant that we can give them maybe a make and model of a vehicle, maybe a plate on a vehicle, maybe a person description, we give that in addition to what the dispatcher gives out.”
It's a job where sometimes seconds matter.
“We work closely with all of our school security partners and the public,” Quint said.
He added that any threats made on social media are taken seriously.
“We don’t monitor the public in general. We do have people that we do kind of look at on an individual basis because they have posted threats in the past and then using that information we’re able to determine what kind of a threat they may be and if action should be taken,” Quint said.
The public is encouraged to help.
“They’re a much bigger band then we are. There are four or five people that work in this office so we cover 130,000 people here in the city so it’s very difficult to figure out who was saying what because we can’t look at everybody,” Quint said.
Calls to the anonymous tip line can make a difference.
“We get them all the time here and we look into them. We look into them open source, above board and just see just what type of situation we are dealing with,” said Hartford Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley.
Hartford Public Schools superintendent says students also have resources available to report social media concerns.
“We don’t ask our students to have the answers right, if they feel that something is uncomfortable for them, let us know so that we can do our job and try and be proactive,” said Hartford school Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez.
Last year the public school system implemented a 24-hour safety hotline in multiple languages for students, parents or staff.
For more information, click here.
To reach the Hartford Crime Stoppers Tip Line call (860-722-TIPS). It's a 24/7 anonymous tip hotline for people with information on criminal activity.
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