FBI admits failure to act on Florida school gunman, draws anger

This composite images shows on the flet, Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott (Photo by Joe Radlle /Getty) and on the right FBI Director Christopher Wray (photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP). (AFP)
Updated 17 February 2018
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FBI admits failure to act on Florida school gunman, draws anger

PARKLAND, Florida: The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday said it failed to act on a tip that the teenager accused of killing 17 people in Florida had guns and the desire to kill, drawing calls from Florida’s Republican governor for the FBI director to resign.
A person close to accused gunman Nikolas Cruz called an FBI tip line on Jan. 5 to report concerns about him, the FBI said in a statement.
“The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting,” it said.
The tip appeared unrelated to a previously reported YouTube comment in which a person named Nikolas Cruz said, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” The FBI has acknowledged getting that tip as well but failing to connect it to Cruz, who is accused of carrying out Wednesday’s mass shooting with an AR-15-style assault rifle.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said FBI Director Christopher Wray should step down over the agency’s mishandling of the tip.
“The FBI’s failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable,” Scott said in a statement. “We constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act.”
Other Republicans including Florida Senator Marco Rubio also harshly criticized the FBI and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had ordered a review of the bureau and Department of Justice procedures following the shooting.
At the funeral for massacre victim Meadow Pollack, an 18-year-old senior who had been headed to university, family friend Jeff Richman expressed disbelief at the FBI fumble.
“The FBI apologized? Tell that to families,” said Richman, 53, an advertising executive who lives in Parkland. “Everybody always tells you ‘when you see something, say something.’ Well, here people were seeing something and saying something and it still happened.”
The FBI said the information on Cruz should have been forwarded to its Miami field office and investigated, but that never happened.
“We have spoken with victims and families, and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy,” Wray said in a statement.
The killings in the affluent Miami suburb of Parkland have raised concerns about potential failures in school security and stirred the ongoing US debate about gun rights, which are protected by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.
The sheriff of Broward County where the shootings took place said in a Friday press conference that authorities had received around 20 “calls for service” in the last few years regarding Cruz.
The sheriff, Scott Israel, said not all of the calls had resulted in the dispatch of law enforcement officers but added that his office would scrutinize them all to see if they were properly handled.
Leaders including US President Donald Trump have linked mental illness to Wednesday’s violence, suggesting that it was the public’s responsibility to warn officials of such dangers.
Cruz, who had been expelled for undisclosed disciplinary reasons from the school where he allegedly staged his attack, made a brief court appearance on Thursday and was ordered held without bond.
“He’s a broken human being,” his lawyer, public defender Melissa McNeill, told reporters. “He’s sad, he’s mournful, he’s remorseful.”
Wednesday’s shooting ranks as the greatest loss of life from school gun violence since the 2012 shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 first-graders and six adult educators dead.
Broward County officials have called for the demolition of the school building where the killings took place.
“No parents are going to want to send their children back into that annex, no one is going to want to go there,” said Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine.
Trump tweeted on Friday morning that he would leave for Florida later in the day to meet people whose “lives had been totally shattered” by the shooting.
The vice mayor of Broward County, a strongly Democratic area, blasted any visit by Trump, saying Republicans had failed to back common sense gun laws and had rolled back measures that made it harder for severely mentally ill people to buy weapons.
“Him coming here is absolutely absurd, and he’s a hypocrite,” Mark Bogen told CNN in an interview following Trump’s tweet.


Shutdown and protests in Kashmir Valley after custodial death

Indian Kashmiri villagers shout anti-Indian slogans following the death of school teacher Rizwan Assad Pandith, in police custody in Awantipora of Pulwama district, south of Srinagar on March 19, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 26 min 25 sec ago
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Shutdown and protests in Kashmir Valley after custodial death

  • Rizwan was one of six siblings and was planning to do a doctorate
  • A police statement said Rizwan had died in police custody and that he had been taken in for a “terror case investigation”

NEW DELHI: There have been protests and a shutdown in Indian-administered Kashmir following a custodial death, as residents warned that local anger over police brutality cannot be contained.

Rizwan Asad Pandit, 29, was declared dead on Tuesday by police after he was picked up late on Sunday night from his home.

His brother, Mubashir, said Rizwan had been taken to an interrogation center known locally as Kashmir’s torture camp.

“Police should tell us what the charges against Rizwan are and why he was killed in this manner,” Mubashir told Arab News.

“I could not look at the body of my brother when I saw it for the first time after his death. There was a cut on his forehead, his thigh was cut open, his eyes have been gouged out, his vital organs were damaged, it was such a gory sight to see.

“These security forces don’t have any human values, human compassion. Who treats a normal human being like this? What crime has Rizwan committed? I want justice for my brother. The whole of Kashmir is shocked by this inhumanity.”

A police statement said Rizwan had died in police custody and that he had been taken in for a “terror case investigation.”

Arab News contacted the inspector general of Jammu and Kashmir, S. P. Pani, but he refused to take questions related to Rizwan’s death.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, which they both claim in full but administer in part, and rebels have been fighting Indian rule for decades, demanding that Indian-controlled Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or established as an independent country.

According to a report from a rights group, the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, 2018 was the deadliest year of the past decade in the Kashmir Valley.

It said a total of 586 people were killed in 2018, of which 160 were civilians. The remaining numbers comprised 267 militants and 159 members of the Indian armed forces and Jammu and Kashmir police.

“In Kashmir, custodial killing has become normalized with overlapping tragedies,” Khurram Parvez, a Srinagar-based activist, told Arab News. “The incident has created anger. The issue is that when the prime minister of the country says that he has given free hand to the soldiers, this emboldens the soldier on the ground who feel that he is not accountable to anyone.”

Nobody was saying what the charges were against Rizwan, he added, or who arrested him. He asked what kind of investigation could be expected when basic information was not being provided. 

“The tragedy is that all these killings and human rights violations are escalating tensions among the people. I feel it will further increase the frustration of young people in the valley.”

The valley observed a complete shutdown in response to calls for a strike by the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), an alliance of separatist leaders from the area.

There have also been protests since news of the custodial death became public.

Mubashir said that late on Sunday police came to the house and locked family members in one room while separating Rizwan from them. “Then the security personnel seized all our laptops and mobiles and took away Rizwan without telling us what the charges against him were.

“We came to know about his death only through social media. Police didn’t have the courtesy to inform us.”

Rizwan was one of six siblings and was planning to do a doctorate. He was a principal at a local private college and nurtured ambitions to be a professor.

“When you push the Kashmiris to wall, they will also push you back and react. The anger such kind of brutalities create among Kashmiris cannot be easily contained,” Mubashir said.

Dawood Riyaz lost his sight in his left eye following a pellet attack in 2017. He accused the Indian government of being “hell-bent” on destroying the young generation of Kashmiris.

“We are also human. We have the right to dissent. You cannot crush dissent with this level of brutality. Youngsters are really feeling frustrated with the regime in Delhi and its insensitivity,” he told Arab News.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a separatist leader and member of the JRL, said Rizwan’s death exposed the “helplessness, vulnerability, and insecurity” of Kashmiri lives even as the “impunity of authorities” kept rising.

Kashmir’s former chief minister, Omar Abdullah, tweeted: “I had hoped custodial deaths were a thing of our dark past. This is an unacceptable development and must be investigated in a transparent, time-bound manner. Exemplary punishment must be handed out to the killers of this young man.”