Broward County

Brother talked about setting up a fan club for Parkland shooter, prosecutors say

Alarmed by his repeated visits to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and his infatuation with his sibling’s notoriety as a mass murderer, prosecutors and police moved Tuesday to keep the younger brother of Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz locked up on trespassing charges and to strip him of his ability to own a gun.

In a bond hearing for Zachary Cruz, assistant Broward state attorney Sarahnell Murphy said that the younger of the two brothers has been overheard admiring the elder’s “popularity” during jailhouse visits, and has talked about setting up a fan club for 19-year-old Nikolas. She also said Zachary was ignoring a vice principal’s order to stay away from the school when a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy arrested him Monday for skateboarding on campus after dismissal.

Prosecutor Sarahnell Murphy argues for a very high bond — and special conditions if he is released — during the first appearance of Zachary Cruz on charges of trespassing on the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Amy Beth Bennett Sun Sentinel

Cruz, facing only a misdemeanor charge for the trespassing arrest, was slapped with a $500,000 bond by Judge Kim Theresa Mollica and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation. But so worried is the Broward Sheriff’s Office that it moved Tuesday to have Zachary Cruz involuntarily committed, and petitioned a judge to strip him of his right to own or possess a gun under a new state law passed as a result of Nikolas Cruz’s Feb. 14 rampage.

“He has all the same flags present as his brother,“ said Murphy.

Cruz’s attorney, Joseph Kimok, argued Tuesday that prosecutors were coming down on his client only because his brother walked onto the grounds of his former high school with an AR-15-style rifle and shot and killed 14 students and three faculty members in the mass shooting at the Parkland school. Cruz also wounded 15 more. and shot and missed at two others. Kimok said bond for trespassing is typically $25, which Zachary Cruz had already posted.

“He’s being held because of who he’s related to, not because of what he did,” Kimok told Mollica. ““To say somehow that Mr Cruz is a danger to the community ... is simply fallacy. There’s no indication of violence from Mr. Cruz. There’s just nothing. And the state is seeking to make a show of this.”

Zachary Cruz BSO

But Murphy, warning of the threat posed by the younger Cruz brother, explained that he had already been Baker Acted just days after his brother’s attack, and that he pleaded guilty three times in 2016, for grand theft, petty theft and criminal mischief. With Zachary Cruz watching stone-faced in a brown inmate uniform on a video feed, Murphy suggested he’d also shown little remorse for what his brother did during visits to the jail where Nikolas Cruz is being held on 17 first-degree murder charges and 17 attempted-murder charges.

“He has been heard and observed discussing how popular his brother is now,” Murphy said. “That his face is everywhere and his name is national. There is discussion of starting some kind of pen pal or fan club, and how many girls he is capable of attracting.”

Cruz, 18, whose adoptive parents are both dead, also gave a fake Parkland address to the deputy who caught him at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He lives in Lake Worth with Rocxanne Deschamps, who told authorities she didn’t know why Zachary was at the school, prosecutors said. Zachary, according to his arrest affidavit, told arresting Deputy Robert Rutkowski that he wanted to reflect on his brother’s shooting and “soak it in” — something that alarmed students and families still shocked from the Feb. 14 massacre.

“When the parents became aware of his presence on campus, many kept their children home today,” Murphy said. “They have again been terrorized.”

One parent, Dr. John Crescitelli, whose daughter texted him, “If I don’t make it, I love you,’’ during the school shooting, was outraged to learn of Cruz’s visit to the school

“My daughter’s nightmares will now resume in full force,’’ he said in an email to the Herald. “This tragedy has become even more surreal.”

Cruz came into Tuesday’s bond hearing represented by the Broward Public Defender’s Office, but Murphy said he had access to a $25,000 inheritance released shortly after his adopted mother’s death in November. Murphy sought a $750,000 bond, but the judge lowered the amount to $500,000.

Still, Mollica ordered that Cruz wear an ankle monitor, and that police search his Lake Worth home for weapons and ammunition before he be allowed to return. If he posts bail, she said he can no longer visit his older brother, or even return to Broward County for any reason other than his obligations as a defendant.

Zachary Cruz will also have to keep one mile away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, where students are preparing to participate in a weekend march in Parkland and Washington D.C. to call for gun safety. He cannot have contact with any Stoneman Douglas students.

“They have a right to go to school without fear,” said Murphy. “It’s our position that this court should use every tool available to make sure that happens.”

Miami Herald reporter David J. Neal contributed to this report.

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