NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - With word that someone made a menacing online post using a screen name that is the same as 19 year old Nickolas Cruz, the suspect in the Florida school massacre, many people are wondering if authorities missed critical warning signs.
A LSU Health New Orleans mental health expert said warning signs are real and should not be ignored.
He said often those closest to individuals who end up committing horrific crimes see changes in their behavior, and a lot of times individuals give hints of what they are planning.
"In over 50-percent, up to 60-percent of the cases the person feels a need to share that information and may share that information with a family member, or a friend. Because it's such a conflicted thing to think about murdering a bunch of innocent people very often they'll test it out on their friends and family members," said Dr. Graham Spruiell, M.D., an LSU Health psychiatrist.
Students said Cruz talked about killing animals and threatened and harassed others.
A post on YouTube last fall with the screen name, Nickolas Cruz," said, "I'm going to be a professional school shooter."
And a Mississippi bail bondsman said after the shooting he had alerted the FBI about the post.
The FBI said it did a database review but could not determine the time, location, or true identity of the person who posted the threatening message.
Former NOPD Supt. Ronal Serpas, has a Ph.D., and is a criminology professor at Loyola University New Orleans.
"See something, say something. You know your family members and in this young man's case there's a lot of life complications, obviously, but just remember back to the Lafayette tragedy just a few years ago. That particular gentleman was sending messages to family and friends that he was beginning to spend out of control," Dr. Serpas said.
And Serpas said the public should not be discouraged even though Cruz went undetected by authorities before the crime.
"There's millions and millions of postings on the internet and it's becoming more every single day…The real issue here is mental health care, coupled with law enforcement to try to interdict before things happen," Serpas stated.
And Serpas said given everything that is happening on social media nowadays, it would be helpful to change the laws to give law enforcement more tools.
"There's only so many people who can deal with the kinds of information on the internet to track down these videos, to track down these people if they're very dangerous, so we really need to think the country's evolving, the laws have to evolve as well," Serpas said.
Whether a claim made by a leader of a White Nationalist Militia that Cruz was a member and participated in para-military drills is true or not, Serpas and Spruiell said young people are impressionable and if they are around good, or bad influences they could be impacted.
"I think that young people are particularly, teenagers, late teenagers are often searching for something, searching for some sense of meaning in their lives and so they're especially vulnerable to groups such as groups that you mentioned or terrorists groups such as Al Qaeda or ISIS," said Dr. Spruiell.
"The nature of being young is being impressionable and what that impression might be," said Serpas.