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Florida school shooter's brother Zachary Cruz moving to Virginia

Parkland shooter's brother moving to Virginia
Credit: Amy Beth Bennett, AP
Zachary Cruz is hugged by Mike Donovan, CEO of Nexus Services, Inc., after a judge granted Cruz the ability to move to Virginia to serve his probation for trespassing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and to participate in the Nexus program during a hearing at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Friday, May 11, 2018. Nexus Services helps people adjust after prison or treatment. Cruz is the brother of Stoneman Douglas shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz.

STAUNTON, Virginia — The younger brother of Nikolas Cruz, the teenager who admitted to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, has been given the go-ahead by the courts to move to Staunton, Virginia.

Zachary Cruz, 18, who has had a couple of run-ins with the law following the massacre, which killed 17, will be in the area within days, Nexus Services Inc. CEO Michael Donovan confirmed Friday.

The Palm Beach Post reported Nexus Services, which gives aid to jailed immigrants, is "financially backing" Cruz's relocation to Staunton, Virginia. The newspaper reports he'll get a rent-free apartment and a job that pays $13 per hour with benefits.

Cruz is getting legal assistance from civil rights law firm Nexus Derechos Humanos Inc., according to Donovan. The Palm Beach Post reports the firm is an arm of Nexus Services.

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Cruz is on six months' probation for trespassing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and needed court permission to leave, the Associated Press reported.

On Friday, a judge ruled that Cruz could serve the remainder of his probation in Virginia, "You need to just take this moment and appreciate what they're offering you," Broward County Judge Melinda Brown told Cruz, according the AP. "Make wise choices."

Credit: Amy Beth Bennett, AP
Zachary Cruz testifies during his hearing at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Friday. A judge granted Cruz permission to move to Virginia to participate in a program that helps people adjust after prison or substance abuse treatment. The judge had to approve the move because Cruz is on probation for trespassing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. His brother Nikolas Cruz is accused of killing 17 people there in the Valentine's Day shooting rampage.

"I'm very happy with the court's ruling," Cruz said after the hearing. "I'm looking forward to starting a new life there."

Since news of the possible move broke on Thursday, Donovan said he's aware of the social media backlash his company has received, but he said the negative reaction should dispel any notions that Nexus was looking for positive publicity by aiding Cruz.

"I believe we are here to assist people with a deep and abiding need," he said. "He's had a lot of trauma in his life."

Zachary Cruz was arrested May 1 and charged with violating conditions of his probation for driving without a valid driver’s license and for going within 25 feet of a parking lot of a high school in Lake Worth, local media reported.

The arrest was the second for Cruz since the mass shooting. He was apprehended March 19 at the Parkland campus after being warned to stay away from the school, according to the Sun-Sentinel newspaper. On March 29, he pleaded no contest to a trespassing charge and received probation and accompanying restrictions.

Following his second arrest, Cruz was held on a $500,000 bond, which Donovan said was "incredibly excessive" for a misdemeanor charge. Donovan also claims Cruz was tortured during his 10-day jail stay through sleep deprivation tactics.

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Nexus Derechos Humanos filed a lawsuit last week against Broward County in Florida, he said.

The AP said Prosecutor Sarahnell Murphy closely questioned Nexus officials at the hearing about the level of supervision Cruz would be under, how he would get around and what kind of mental health counseling would be available. Nexus officials assured her they'd keep close tabs on Cruz and would ensure he met all requirements of his probation, including electronic monitoring.

Still, Murphy said she was concerned about Cruz leaving Broward County's jurisdiction. Prosecutors have previously noted Cruz's scrapes with police and said many "red flags" exist with him that were apparent with his brother after the shooting.

"I wish I could say I was without trepidation," Murphy said.

Cruz's brother, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, is facing a possible death sentence on 17 counts of first-degree murder in the school shooting. He also faces 17 counts of attempted murder.

Donovan said Zachary Cruz has a maintenance job and housing awaiting him, and said he begins job training next week at the company's Verona, Virginia, campus. The CEO said the change of scenery from Miami to a more rural location should benefit Cruz.

"The reality is Augusta County is an unbelievably welcoming place," Donovan said. "I hope the county will receive him well."

In Miami, Donovan said the younger Cruz is unfairly seen through the lens of his older brother.

"This is a great kid," he said.

As for the naysayers not willing to give Cruz the benefit of the doubt concerning his move, Dononan said, "This is The United States of America. Zachary Cruz can move wherever he wants."

Donovan said media publicity surrounding Cruz's move to Virginia will subside, allowing him to settle in.

"After a couple weeks, nobody is going to care," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. 

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