Under the Dome

Don’t let ‘PC police’ keep you from reporting suspicious behavior, NC lawmaker says

Steve Zipper visits a makeshift memorial in Pine Trails Park for the victims of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.
Steve Zipper visits a makeshift memorial in Pine Trails Park for the victims of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. The Washington Post

In the wake of a shooting in Florida that left 17 high school students dead, a North Carolina legislator is encouraging people to report suspicious behavior – even if it means defying what he called the “PC police.”

State Sen. Ronald Rabin, a Republican from Harnett County, is worried some people won’t report suspicious behavior because they’re afraid of being seen as insensitive, he said in a Facebook post and interview Monday.

A 19-year-old, Nikolas Cruz, is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder following a shooting rampage with an AR-15 rifle on Feb. 14 that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Rabin, co-chairman of the state’s Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee, wrote on his Facebook page Monday that tips from the community are the best way to combat would-be terrorists.

“Information provided by humans (HUMINT) is most valuable in derailing terrorism. All the Intel cannot come just from professionals. All Must call! The problem is that the politically correct police make it a “no-no” to say anything that may hurt feelings or offend anyone in any way,” Rabin posted.

He continued: “Folks be alert, watch and report. Law enforcement react. This is the best deterrent to these acts of violence. Do not let the unidentified, ubiquitous PC Police interfere with stopping these heinous acts.”

In Florida, students and parents did indeed report what they saw, he acknowledged in a telephone interview. He said his post isn’t meant to be a criticism of the Parkland community.

“Everything I’ve seen out of Florida shows that the reporting was done ... My understanding is that some of the students did say something. Then the parents were disturbed enough that they said something. But it never went any further,” Rabin said.

He said he’s disappointed that authorities didn’t act on “ample evidence” that the suspect was “not quite right.”

A social services agency did a psychiatric evaluation of Cruz in 2016 after he sent out a Snapchat video in which he cut his arms and said he wanted to buy a gun, according to a November 2016 Florida Department of Children and Families investigative report obtained by NBC News.

However, after speaking with the teenager, health professionals chose not to hospitalize him.

The high school suspended Cruz for disciplinary reasons last year. Then, less than six weeks prior to the shooting, someone who knew Cruz called an FBI tip line to complain about him but no one followed up. In a statement, the FBI said the tip should have been “assessed as a potential threat to life” and forwarded to the bureau’s Miami field office for investigation – but that the proper procedures weren’t followed.

“In this particular case, it looks like it was the FBI that didn’t follow up. They knew and did nothing. I don’t know why,” Rabin said.

That said, Rabin worries that a growing culture of “political correctness” might deter people from reporting suspicious behavior in the future.

“I would much rather have offended someone and not have the thing happen than have kept it to myself,” he said, referring to a shooting.

Rabin suggested that the law enforcement community should add a bit of advice to the “Run, Hide, Fight” method of combating shooters.

“In addition to the ‘run, hide and fight’ campaign, add something that says you should report things up the chain,” he said. “Make it more of a preemptive move that way.”

Rabin isn’t the first North Carolina lawmaker to weigh in on the Parkland shooting. Republican state Rep. Larry Pittman of Cabarrus County near Charlotte apologized to fellow legislators in a letter on Feb. 17 for a Facebook post in which he speculated that the Florida shooter might have been part of a conspiracy to “push for gun control so they can more easily take over the country.”

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht