One day after he was arrested for violating his probation in a trespassing case, the younger brother of Parkland mass shooter Nikolas Cruz announced Wednesday that he would be suing law enforcement over how his case has been handled by authorities.
A pro-bono organization made the announcement on behalf of 18-year-old Zachary Cruz. The group, Nexus Derechos Humanos, a civil-rights firm based in Virginia and Georgia, said it would detail the federal lawsuit at a press conference Thursday in front of Broward's circuit court.
His older brother, Nikolas Cruz, 19, is facing the death penalty for the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High that killed 17 students and employees. The Feb. 14 massacre is the worst school shooting in Florida history and sparked nationwide outrage, a wave of student activism and a law restricting gun sales.
Zachary Cruz, who like his brother had a troubled childhood living with their widowed adoptive mother, was arrested the following month on charges of trespassing on the Parkland school grounds. He told a deputy: "I'll be straight up. I just wanted to take it all in."
Zachary Cruz was later held on a $500,000 bond for the second-degree misdemeanor charge, an amount his defense lawyer called "outrageous."
Prosecutors cast Zachary Cruz as infatuated by his older brother's notoriety, even talking about starting a fan club for the accused murderer. As a teenager, Zachary Cruz frequently ran away from home and was convicted three times in 2016 for grand theft, petty theft and criminal mischief.
Zachary Cruz, who lived with a family friend after his mother died last year, was also involuntarily committed for a psychiatric evaluation days after the shooting. "He has all the same flags present as his brother," Broward prosecutor Sarahnell Murphy told a judge after the trespassing arrest in March.
His attorney, Joseph Kimok, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, called the bond "outrageous" for such a minor charge during that hearing.
A Broward judge later placed Zachary Cruz on a strict six-month probation that barred him from coming within a mile of the high school, or any school he was not enrolled in.
Civil lawyers for Zachary Cruz accused the Broward Sheriff's Office, prosecutors and the courts of "torturing" the teen and violating his civil rights "and engaging in an extortive campaign of intimidation because of the identity of his brother," according to a press release.
The State Attorney's Office, which has not been served any lawsuit, declined to comment, as did BSO and the courts.
The Nexus group accused the agencies of imposing an excessive $500,000 bail and jail guards of "intimidating and harassing behavior" that included sleep deprivation tactics.
"Given the impossibly high bail, coupled with dehumanizing treatment in jail, Cruz was ultimately and unjustly forced to accept a guilty plea, just to escape the horrors of custody in the Broward main jail facility," according to the Nexus press release.
The press release was issued as Cruz issued a written plea of not guilty in Palm Beach County after his arrest the night before on allegations he violated his probation.
According to a BSO warrant, Zachary Cruz violated probation by driving a brown Kia SUV without a valid driver's license on Northern Boulevard, just east of Jog Road in Lake Worth, on Saturday, April 28. On that same day, he also was within 25 feet of the west parking lot of Park Vista Community High School in Lake Worth.