Gunman’s brother, arrested at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, appears in court
The younger brother of school gunman Nikolas Cruz was arrested Monday on a trespassing charge on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, police said.
Zachary Cruz, 18, said he wanted to “reflect on the school shooting and soak it in,” according to an arrest report. It said the teen had no ties to Broward County and that he “surpassed all locked doors and gates and proceeded to ride his skateboard through school grounds.”
He has since posted bond and been released. He is scheduled to make a first appearance Tuesday afternoon, said Meredith Bush, spokeswoman for the 17th Judicial Circuit of Florida.
The school intends to prosecute him, the arrest report said, adding that Zachary Cruz had received “prior warnings by school officials to refrain from entering the school campus.” The report did not elaborate on the warnings.
Zachary Cruz has been living in suburban Palm Beach County with Rocxanne Deschamps since he and his brother’s adopted mother, Lynda Cruz, died in November.
According to court documents from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Zachary twice spoke with police February 16, two days after the mass shooting. That morning, deputies spoke with Deschamps and Zachary Cruz about a tip they’d received, the nature of which is redacted from the report.
An officer with the sheriff’s behavioral science unit interviewed Zachary Cruz, and a detective later determined the tip was “only rumor at this time” and no further action was taken, the report said.
About three hours later, Palm Beach deputies arrived to assist the Broward Sheriff’s Office with an interview, according to a separate report.
Zachary Cruz said he told Deschamps on the night of the shooting, “I don’t want to be alive; I don’t want to deal with this stuff.”
He also told police that the night after the shooting, he felt as if “someone was trying to get me” and was scared when he thought he heard people outside his home.
He said he felt some responsibility for the shooting, according to court documents, and that he felt he could have possibly prevented the tragedy. He also conceded some resentment toward Nikolas for being “the favored brother,” according to the report.
“Zachary explained that he and his friends, when they were younger, had bullied Nikolas, which he now regrets ever doing,” the report said. “Zachary wishes that he had been ‘nicer’ to his brother.”
A 2014 psychiatric memorandum from Cross Creek School, which serves emotionally and behaviorally disturbed students in Broward County, seems to confirm the bullying.
After summarizing Nikolas Cruz’ oft-violent behavioral issues, the memo reports the behaviors “seem to be exacerbated by his strained relationship with his brother.”
“Ms. Cruz stated that she has found knives and scissors in his bed. She think that he feels he needs to protect himself from his brother,” the memorandum said.
In a second February 16 interview, Zachary Cruz told the officer he didn’t understand why his brother shot and killed 17 people February 14 in one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern US history.
“It’s not a realistic option to kill people,” he told police, according to the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office report.
The officer interviewing the younger brother said he detected no “homicidal ideations at this time” but recommended the teen be evaluated further.
In closing, the officer wrote, “It should be noted that there is a shotgun and a rifle in the (Rocxanne Deschamps’ son’s) bedroom and should be secured in a closet.”
Nikolas Cruz is being held without bond at the Broward County Jail, where he’s segregated from other inmates.
A judge entered a plea of not guilty on Cruz’s behalf as the teen was arraigned last week.
Prosecutors announced in court filings March 13 that they will seek the death penalty against Cruz. They listed several factors, including that he knowingly created a risk of death for many people and that the shooting was “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.”
A Broward County grand jury indicted Cruz March 7 on 17 counts of premeditated murder in the first degree and 17 counts of attempted murder in the first degree.
Zachary Cruz was present during his brother’s arraignment, where he was seen wiping away tears.