Judge Rules Parkland School Shooter's Brother Can Sue Sheriff's Office
Fort Lauderdale, FL – A judge ruled that the younger brother of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter may proceed with his lawsuit against Broward officials whom he contends “tortured” him after he was arrested for trespassing.
Zachary Cruz, 18, was arrested twice after his older brother committed a massacre at the Parkland high school on Feb. 14, 2018, and both times the arrests were for being at a high school where he didn’t belong.
Cruz was arrested on March 19 after he was spotted skateboarding on the very same campus where his older brother had murdered 17 students and staff only a month earlier.
A Broward County sheriff’s report said Cruz told the arresting deputy that he was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to "reflect on the school shooting and to soak it in," CBS News reported.
However, school officials and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said Cruz had been notified that he was banned from the Parkland high school’s campus.
The police report said that the younger Cruz brother had "surpassed all locked doors and gates and proceeded to ride his skateboard through school grounds."
He was caught on security cameras riding his skateboard on school grounds at about 4:30 p.m. on March 19, The Washington Post reported.
Cruz was charged with trespassing, and paid a bond of $25, but remained in custody at the same jail where his brother was being held.
The judge later bumped up his bail to $500,000.
He was ultimately sentenced to six months’ probation and ordered to wear a GPS monitor.
Cruz was arrested again on May 1, after he was spotted only 25 feet from a parking lot at Park Vista Community High School in Lake Worth.
The arrest warrant stated that Cruz violated his probation by operating an SUV without a driver’s license and for showing up at another school that he was not enrolled in, CNN reported.
His attorney argued that while the conditions of his probation prohibited Cruz from going on any school grounds, they didn’t prevent Cruz from being near a school.
Shortly before he appeared in court after his second arrest, his attorneys announced a lawsuit that targeted Broward prosecutors, the judge, and the sheriff, CNN reported.
The lawsuit alleged that the judge set Cruz’s bail at $500,000 based on his older brother’s crimes, and said jail officials had intimidated and harassed him.
“He was scheduled to be released and the sheriff’s office decided to hold him because of who his brother was,” said Nexus Services CEO Mike Donovan.
The lawsuit claimed they also deprived Cruz of sleep and made him wear a restraint vest at all times.
"The sleep deprivation tactics, including the use of intimidating and harassing behavior by guards, the use of a restraint vest 24 hours per day, and the use of 24-hour intense lighting, are procedures that amount to torture under the Geneva Convention, and are behaviors we do not permit soldiers to use in the battlefield,” the lawsuit read.
Cruz’s lawsuit was filed by Nexus Derechos Humanos attorneys, who are representing the school shooter’s brother for free.
The same organization helped Cruz move to Virginia and start over, outside his older brother’s shadow, according to WFOR.
The lawsuit alleged that Broward County officials’ decision to detain Cruz following his posting of bond was intentional, and therefore rose above the “mere negligence” required to maintain a claim for deliberate indifference to his right to be released, and the court agreed the argument was plausible, WFOR reported.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida said that Cruz’s treatment in custody substantiated his claims of 14th amendment violations and false imprisonment, and ruled that his lawsuit could go forward.
“I would like for the people who are responsible to be held accountable,” Cruz told WFOR.