Since his older brother Nikolas Cruz opened fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killing 17 students and staff members, Zachary Cruz has been arrested twice, kicked out of his home and doesn't have a job or a license.
His attorney is now asking a judge to give the 18-year-old a chance at a new life in Virginia where he's been offered a home, a job and counseling.
"Mr. Cruz thus has an incredible opportunity to restart his young life in a fresh location where the stigma of his brother's alleged actions will not isolate him from the world," his attorney Mark Lowry wrote in a motion, which will be heard Friday morning in Broward.
Cruz needs a judge's approval because he is still on probation from his March arrest for trespassing at Douglas High. At the time, Cruz, who was caught skateboarding on campus, said he went to the school to "reflect on the shooting and to soak it in ..."
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Since his most recent arrest, Cruz has since been in the personal care of his civil attorney and Nexus Derechos Humanos Inc., a national civil rights group, who has put him up in a Broward hotel room and provides him transportation and meals.
"He's just a kid who wants to skate," Nexus CEO Mike Donovan told the Miami Herald Thursday. "He is really one of the sweetest people I've met. "What's happening to him is a result of the community demonizing him and it's just plain wrong. He's endured a lot of trauma too and shouldn't be judged by his brother's actions."
On Feb. 14, his brother, who authorities say has confessed, entered the freshman building at Stoneman Douglas with an assault rifle and killed 14 students and three educators, and injured 17 other people.
Following the arrest, a judge placed Zachary Cruz on probation with very stringent guidelines including staying away from Stoneman Douglas, or any other school he doesn't attend. He also has to refrain from contact with his brother and must wear an ankle monitor.
His attorney at the time argued that the punishment didn't fit the crime.
“Having lost his mother, having lost his brother and having his life dissected, Zachary did his best to cope,” Joseph Kimok said during a hearing. “He didn’t turn to drugs, alcohol or violence. He turned to his skateboard and the one activity that gave him solace. And he turned to Stoneman Douglas, where he’d felt welcome. Zachary’s visits to Stoneman Douglas weren’t to scare anyone. He went after hours. He didn’t expect to see anyone. He just wanted to try to make sense of this. Nothing else.”
During a bond hearing for Zachary Cruz, assistant Broward state attorney Sarahnell Murphy stressed concerns that the younger Cruz, during a jailhouse visit, was heard talking about his brother's “popularity.”
On May 1, he was arrested again — this time for violating his probation. He was caught driving without a license. The same day, he was also seen within 25 feet of the west parking lot of Park Vista Community High School in Lake Worth.
Zachary Cruz, whose mother died in November, was living with guardian Rocxanne Deschamps in Palm Beach County until she recently kicked him out. His father had died years earlier.
“He’s the brother of the one that did all the shooting,” Deschamps told police on April 27, according to recordings obtained by the Miami Herald.
Deschamps called a Broward County non-emergency line after Zachary Cruz had been caught — while wearing a court-ordered ankle monitor — driving his dead mother’s car without insurance or a driver’s license.
“He’s breaking his probation, obviously. It’s not something you do,” she said. "I hate to do this, but I have to do it. At least he is not going to be killing anybody or killing himself. Who knows. He thinks he can do whatever."
Two days later, he was released from a Palm Beach County jail, still on probation.
The same day, Deschamps' ex-husband, Paul Gold, posted on Facebook that he was concerned for his 5-year-old son.
"Can you believe that Zachary has been arrested again! I gave Roxanne Deschamps an ultimatum that if Zachary was not out of her home by the end of this week I would be filling for full custody of our 5-year-old son Tyler who lives with her 50 percent of the time," he wrote. "Tyler has been complaining that Zachary is constantly bullying him and that he is terrified of him. My son told me that he hides under the couch for protection when he is left alone with him."
But Donovan, the Nexus CEO, said "that doesn't sound like him at all," noting that when Cruz was released from jail, Deschamps had "dumped all his belongings, including family heirlooms from his late mother, on the porch."
"He is someone who really wants to make a difference, especially when it comes to bullying and isolation issues. He's got a lot of smarts and a lot of heart," he said.
In the motion filed Thursday, Lowry said Zachary Cruz has an offer by Virginia-based Nexus Services, Inc. to stay in a condo for one year. He has also been offered a $13-an-hour job as a maintenance mechanic.
Through Nexus Services, a charitable entity that helps people rebuild their lives after incarceration or treatment, Cruz will also get weekly counseling and be able to get a high school diploma.
Lowry is asking for a "hybrid model" of reporting during probation that would include phone check-ins.
"He's a mature person, despite all he's been through and being under the pubic eye for merely having the same last name as Nikolas," Lowry said. "He's handling himself fairly well considering everything that he's lost. The victims from Stoneman Douglas have lost the most, but it needs to be mentioned that he has lost a lot too."