High bond set for alleged school shooter's brother

A judge sets an unusually high $500,000 US bond for the brother of the Florida school shooting suspect who was charged with trespassing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Zachary Cruz, 18, arrested for trespassing at site of deadly rampage

Zachary Cruz, centre, the brother of the Florida school shooting suspect, makes his first appearance on charges of trespassing on the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, on Tuesday, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/Associated Press)

A judge set an unusually high $500,000 US bond on Tuesday and imposed a host of other restrictions on Zachary Cruz, the brother of the Florida school shooting suspect. Cruz was charged with trespassing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

A prosecutor said that Cruz, 18, expressed admiration for his brother Nikolas Cruz's fame since the Feb. 14 shooting, and that they had discussed whether it might attract girls and pen pals.

"He has been heard observing how popular [Nikolas'] name is now," said Assistant State Attorney Sarahnell Murphy at a hearing.

"Weeks after his brother murdered, injured and terrorized at the school, [Zachary] was there," she said. "Many [parents] kept their children home today. They have again been terrorized."

Prosecutors said it was the third time he had visited the campus, even though he was warned to stay away.

Broward Sheriff's Office deputies arrested him on Monday afternoon, saying he rode his skateboard onto the campus.

He is in the same Fort Lauderdale jail where his brother is housed.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students gather after the walkout in honour of the 17 victims killed during the Feb. 14 shooting on March 14 in Parkland, Fla. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/Associated Press)

Joseph Kimok, who represents Zachary, said the bond and conditions were far out of proportion to the trespassing offence.

"He is being held for who he is related to, not for anything he did," Kimok said.

According to an arrest report, Zachary told officers he came to the school to "reflect on the school shooting and soak it all in." He did not resist arrest and the report made no mention of any weapons.

Trespassing is a misdemeanor that usually carries only a $25 bond. But Murphy asked for $750,000 and a host of conditions, most of which the judge approved.

Broward County Judge Kim Theresa Mollica ordered Zachary to wear an ankle monitor and stay away from schools — particularly Stoneman Douglas High — if he is released.

The judge also ordered a search for weapons and ammunition at the Palm Beach County home where he is living with a family friend, and he is not to visit his brother in jail.

Zachary and Nikolas shared the same biological mother but had different fathers. Both were adopted at very young ages by Roger and Lynda Cruz, who moved them into their Parkland home. Lynda Cruz died in November and Roger Cruz died some years earlier.

Rocxanne Deschamps sheds tears during a news conference, Tuesday, in New York. Nikolas Cruz, the Florida school shooting suspect, lived with Deschamps for a while after his mother's death and was living with a different family when the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting took place. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

Zachary, who turned 18 a week after the school shooting, has been living in Lantana, Fla., with a family friend, Rocxanne Deschamps, since their mother's death.

At a news conference Tuesday in New York City, Deschamps described being neighbours with the Cruz family in Parkland and how her son played with the two boys, whom she often cared for and took on outings. In October 2016, she saw a number of guns in Nikolas's room she described as military-style, and became concerned about him and the weapons. By this time, Deschamps also had a five-year-old son.

"I explained to Nikolas that I was concerned about my young child and I could not have him be around loaded guns or any weapons where bullets could be placed in guns," she said in her first public comments since the shooting. 

Just before Lynda Cruz died suddenly last November of pneumonia, Deschamps promised to take care of the boys. She knew Nikolas had mental issues and obsessions with weapons, and implored him to get professional help and take his medication but he refused. Her calls to police about his behaviour resulted in no action.

He eventually moved in with another family when Deschamps said she told him to choose between his guns and her home. "He chose the gun," Deschamps said.

"I did everything I could to warn law enforcement about what could happen," she said. "Unfortunately, although I did everything I could, I was not able to stop this tragedy from taking place."

The National School Walkout in the U.S. had some support in Canada, as students took action to demand tighter gun laws. Organizers had hoped about 3,000 schools would participate, with students walking out for a symbolic 17 minutes — one for each of the 17 people killed at a Florida high school one month ago 8:11

Nikolas Cruz was living with a different family when the Stoneman Douglas shooting took place. His attorney has said he will plead guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder if prosecutors will waive the death penalty, which they have refused to do.

Police records show Zachary Cruz has also had a troubled life, including a juvenile arrest record for theft. His mother, Lynda Cruz, made frequent calls to the Broward Sheriff's Office about him running away, refusing to go to school, being rude and disrespectful and attempting to break things in their Parkland home. Some of the calls go back to when Zachary was 11 years old.

After the shooting, according to a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office report, Zachary told deputies that "he and his friends, when they were younger, had bullied Nikolas, which he now regrets ever doing. Zachary wishes that he had been "nicer to his brother" and that there may be resentment between the two "as Nikolas may have been the favoured brother."

Police say this security video shows former Broward County sheriff's deputy Scot Peterson, circled, during the Feb. 14 rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 5:19

With files from CBC News