World

A New Mexico man convinced the FBI he was not a threat. Then he carried out a school shooting.

William Atchison knew exactly why the two FBI agents were at his door.

“Relating to my internet history or whatever?” he said as the duo entered his family’s modest home in a remote area of northwestern New Mexico on March 24, 2016.

The FBI’s visit was prompted by an alarming post Atchison had left on an internet message board weeks earlier, according to court records. Atchison, 21, said he was “plotting [a] mass shooting” and looking for “weapons that are good for killing a lot of people within a budget.”

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But “I’m not the type to actually do any of this stuff,” Atchison told the agents, according to a recording of the interview obtained exclusively by NBC News. The FBI agents agreed, their report says, and they closed the case.

The next year, on Dec. 7, 2017, Atchison walked through an unlocked door at his former high school in Aztec, New Mexico, and used a legally purchased semi-automatic handgun to kill Casey Marquez, a cheerleader who coached gymnastics, and Francisco “Paco” Fernandez, a football player. Then he turned the weapon on himself as police closed in. It was one of 50 school shootings in 2017.

An NBC News examination of the Aztec High School shooting — including a review of government records and an audio recording of an FBI interview of the future shooter — found a series of missed opportunities that point to what some experts say are nationwide shortcomings in how authorities assess and respond to potentially violent domestic extremists.

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