The brother of accused mass killer Nikolas Cruz argued in court papers Thursday that he is being unfairly held on inordinately high bail in the wake of his arrest for trespassing at the Florida school where 17 students were slain.
But prosecutors told a judge that there is adequate reason to consider 18-year-old Zachary Cruz, who is being held on $500,000 bond, to be a public safety risk.
“He has been heard observing how popular (Nikolas’) name is now,” Assistant State Attorney Sarahnell Murphy said at a recent hearing. She also said that Zachary Cruz remarked on Nikolas Cruz’s notoriety since the Valentine's Day shooting and that the brothers have discussed whether such infamy might attract girls and pen pals.
Zachary Cruz was arrested Monday after deputies spotted him riding a skateboard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School despite being warned not to visit the campus. A judge imposed the high bond amount and other restrictions.
Lawyers for Zachary Cruz argued Thursday that $500,000 bail is far too high for what amounts to a misdemeanor offense.
Court records show that Zachary Cruz has already submitted $25 bond — a typical amount set in most trespass cases. His attorneys say that should be enough to qualify him for release, particularly since he had no weapon on him at the time of his arrest, did not resist officers, and made no threatening statements.
“He is being held for who he is related to, not for anything he did,” said Joseph Kimok, a lawyer representing Cruz.
In arguing for his detention, Murphy said that Zachary Cruz' presence at the school set off a chain-reaction of worry and fear.
“Weeks after his brother murdered, injured and terrorized at the school, (Zachary) was there,” Murphy said. “Many (parents) kept their children home today. They have again been terrorized.”
Nikolas Cruz faces a 34-count indictment for the shooting. He and his brother are both being held at the same Fort Lauderdale jail.
Prosecutors said Zachary Cruz visited the school three times since the shooting and had been told to stay away.
According to an arrest report, Zachary Cruz told officers he came to the school to “reflect on the school shooting and soak it all in.”
Broward County Judge Kim Theresa Mollica ordered Zachary Cruz 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.
The sheriff’s office also filed for a risk protection order against Zachary Cruz in circuit court Tuesday under a new “red flag law” that was just signed by the governor last week. If a judge approves the request, Cruz would be involuntarily hospitalized for a mental health evaluation and barred from possessing firearms.
Monday’s arrest prompted Gov. Rick Scott to offer Florida Highway Patrol Troopers to help secure the school, Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis said.
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 their father died some years earlier.
Broward County Judge Jack Tuter on Wednesday granted a temporary risk protection order against Zachary Cruz. The order prohibits Cruz from possessing or purchasing firearms or ammunition.
Students expressed shock that Zachary Cruz could be allowed to gain access to the Parkland school's grounds.
"It is sort of weird to think about it. Like, we have all this police on campus, and still he got on and was able to skateboard around like that," student Ryan LoFurno told CNN affiliate WSVN.
CONTRIBUTING: Associated Press