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FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit by Zachary Cruz, the younger brother of self-confessed Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, against the Broward Sheriff’s Office can go forward.
In the lawsuit, Cruz claims that he was targeted, harassed, and tortured by Broward authorities.
Cruz brother Nikolas is accused of going on a shooting spree at the school on February 14th, killing 17 people.
“If people only knew the half of it,” said Zachary. “I’m nothing like [Nikolas]. But people have their opinions. I’m not my brother.”
Prosecutors said at the time that Zachary Cruz had “red flags” similar to his brother’s in terms of behavioral problems that might lead him down a criminal path or worse.
“He was arrested for skateboarding on school grounds,” said Nexus Services CEO Mike Donovan. “And the bond was set at $25, which is the customary bond for that charge.”
After posting the required $25 bail, Cruz claims his bond was unreasonably reset to an excessive $500,000.
“He was scheduled to be released and the sheriff’s office decided to hold him because of who his brother was,” said Donovan.
In the filing, lawyers for Cruz said he was illegally held after posting his $25 bond without just cause. The claim Broward County officials then engaged in a campaign of intimidation and torture once he was in the Broward main jail facility, including the use of a restraint vest 24-hours per day and sleep deprivation tactics such as guards repeatedly waking him at all hours and the use of 24-hour intense lighting.
“I would like for the people who are responsible to be held accountable,” said Cruz.
The civil rights organization Nexus Services is now funding a lawsuit to do just that.
“The Broward sheriff’s office has to change,” said Donovan. “Believe it will change. I believe that change needs to be comprehensive. I believe the way inmates are treated in the jail needs to change.”
In their ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled that the treat of Cruz in custody substantiated his claims of 14th amendment violations and false imprisonment.
The court agreed that Cruz’s lawsuit plausibly alleges that Broward County officials, notably Captain Sherea Green’s, decision to detain Cruz following his posting of bond was intentional, and therefore rose above the “mere negligence” required to maintain a claim for deliberate indifference to his right to be released.
Cruz is being represented by Nexus Services, the Virginia company that provided him Cruz with a job and living quarters after his scrape with the law.
The suit was filed by Nexus Derechos Humanos Attorneys, who bill themselves as “a pro bono civil-rights law firm committed to holding public officials accountable.”
Cruz, who moved to Viriginia to escape his brother’s reputation, says he will be here for his lawsuit and his brother’s trial. A promise he made Nicholas Cruz.
“I promised him when mom died that I would be there,” said Zachary. “I promised him when my mom was dead on the bed.”
Zach, clearly timid and still a teenager, will turn 19 next month. The same month of the anniversary of the shooting in Parkland.
He is at a loss for words about how he feels, but wants everyone to know “I pray that everyone gets through these hard times. And that people are just there for each other, when you need it the most.”