BREAKING: Zachary Cruz enters plea of not guilty for probation violation

Zachary Cruz, the brother of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gunman Nikolas Cruz, remained in the Palm Beach County Jail late Wednesday, more than a day after he was arrested for violating the terms of his probation for trespassing at the Broward County school.

According to an arrest warrant, Cruz was arrested for violating his probation by coming within 25 feet of Park Vista High School in suburban Boynton Beach on Saturday.

The terms of his probation, set in March in Broward County Court by Judge Kim T. Mollica, state that he must not come within a mile of Stoneman Douglas or within 500 feet of “any campus of any school or child care facility ... .”

Parkland gunman’s brother shows ‘same flags,’ prosecutor says

Cruz’s attorney, Mark Lowry, entered a written plea of not guilty Wednesday on behalf of his client, who records indicated was being held at the jail without bond. Lowry was unavailable for comment Wednesday, and it was not immediately clear when Cruz might appear before a judge.

Cruz, 18, was sentenced to six months of probation following his arrest for trespassing on the Douglas campus in Parkland on March 19. Nikolas Cruz had killed 17 people there Feb. 14. The younger Cruz had attended school there and told Broward County deputies he had come back to “reflect on the school shooting and soak it in.”

An arrest warrant said a Broward County sheriff’s employee saw Cruz driving a brown Kia SUV near Park Vista between 12:45 and 1 p.m. During the drive, Cruz allegedly came within 25 feet of the school’s west parking lot along Northtree Boulevard.

A check of a state database confirmed Cruz does not have a valid driver’s license, the report said.

The sheriff’s employee who saw Cruz near Park Vista is identified in the arrest warrant as David Scharf, a civilian listed as an executive director of community programs on the command staff of Sheriff Scott Israel.

Cruz was booked into the jail just before 7 p.m. Tuesday. Jail records show he was arrested by Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies.

“Good work by @PBCountySheriff acting quickly to address a potential threat and repeated unlawful behavior,” Ryan Petty, the father of Stoneman Douglas shooting victim Alaina Petty wrote on his Twitter account. “Unfortunately, the same was not done in Broward County.”

The response by Broward deputies to the shootings has been the source of controversy and withering criticism since the mass shootings took place.

No one answered a knock Wednesday afternoon at Cruz’s home on Easter Cay Way in the Lantana Cascade Mobile Home Park off Congress Avenue south of Lantana Road. The home is owned by Rocxanne Deschamps, who took in the Cruz brothers after their mother died last fall.

A human-rights group based in Virginia announced Wednesday that it is planning to file a lawsuit on Cruz’s behalf alleging harassment and mistreatment —including sleep deprivation — by law enforcement following his arrest for trespassing in March.

Nexus Derechos Humanos said in a statement that Cruz was menaced by guards at the Broward County Jail and that his $500,000 bond for trespassing was “excessive.” The charge is a second-degree misdemeanor that typically results in a $25 bond.

“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,” the statement read.

The rights group is scheduled to hold a news conference Thursday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale to discuss the lawsuit.

Staff writers Alexandra Seltzer and Hannah Winston contributed to this story.

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