National News

Parkland Shooting Suspect Is Charged With Assaulting Deputy in Jail

Posted November 14, 2018 6:40 p.m. EST
Updated November 14, 2018 6:42 p.m. EST

Nikolas Cruz, the man charged with killing 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in February, faces three new charges of assaulting an officer in jail and grabbing his electroshock weapon, authorities said on Wednesday.

Cruz, 20, is being held in the Broward County Sheriff’s Office main jail, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as he awaits trial on 34 counts of premeditated murder and attempted murder in the shooting on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The new charges relate to a fight with a deputy at the jail on Tuesday, shortly before 6 p.m. Eastern time, the sheriff’s office said in a statement on Wednesday. The deputy, Sgt. Raymond Beltran, told Cruz to “not drag his sandals on the ground” in a day room, according to an affidavit. It said Cruz made an obscene gesture at the sergeant and “rushed” him and “struck him in the face.”

The two men ended up on the ground, the affidavit said. Video, which the authorities did not release, shows that Cruz was on top of Beltran at one point, punching him multiple times in the head, according to the affidavit.

Cruz grabbed Beltran’s electroshock weapon out of his holster, the video shows. As the two men struggled for control of the weapon, it went off, the affidavit said. Cruz hit Beltran several more times, until the sergeant struck at Cruz’s face while holding the weapon, according to the affidavit.

Cruz faces charges of assault and battery of an officer, and an obstruction charge related to the struggle for the weapon, the affidavit said. A shackled Cruz appeared in court on Wednesday to hear the charges of battery and of using an electrical or chemical weapon against a law enforcement officer, The Sun-Sentinel reported.

A hearing for the third charge will be on Friday, the newspaper reported.

A call to the public defenders’ office, which is representing Cruz, was not returned.

It was not immediately clear whether the sergeant or Cruz was injured in the encounter.

Prosecutors in Florida are seeking the death penalty against Cruz in the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High, which he carried out with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle when he was 19, authorities have said.

He had announced his goals on three videos recorded on his cellphone before the shooting, saying: “You’ll all know who I am. You’re all going to die.”

Of the 34 counts on which Cruz has been indicted, 17 are of premeditated murder in the first degree, and 17 are of attempted murder in the first degree.

Parents of students killed in the Parkland shooting were angered this week after Cruz was reported to have registered to vote in the midterm elections from jail — even though it would not have been illegal for him to vote, The Sun-Sentinel and other news outlets reported.

Voting records show that Cruz registered on July 25 as a Republican.

“Just because something is technically legal doesn’t make it just or ethical,” Andrew Pollack, whose 17-year-old daughter, Meadow, was among those killed, wrote on Facebook on Monday. “Everyone knew this notorious killer had just admitted to 17 murders. Outrageous to go out of the way to register that thing to vote when my daughter can no longer even breathe.”