Author: Lt. Dan Marcou
By Curt Anderson Associated Press
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz attacked a detention officer at the county jail and now faces new charges including use of the officer’s electric stun device, authorities said Wednesday.
Broward Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright confirmed in an email Wednesday that Cruz assaulted Sgt. Raymond Beltran around 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Jail records show Cruz now is charged with aggravated assault on an officer, battery on an officer and use of an “electric or chemical weapon against an officer.”
The 20-year-old Cruz already faces the death penalty in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 people and wounded 17 others. He’s pleaded not guilty in the shooting but his lawyers say he would plead guilty in exchange for a life prison sentence.
According to the assault arrest report, Cruz attacked Beltran after he was told to “not drag his sandals around” while walking in a jail dayroom. Cruz responded, the report says, by showing Beltran his middle finger and then rushing the deputy and striking him with his fist.
The report says Cruz and Beltran then “got into a physical altercation” in which both wound up on the floor and Cruz was able to wrest control of the stun gun, technically called a “conducive electronic weapon.” The stun gun discharged but it’s not clear from the report if it struck anyone and Beltran was able to regain control.
Beltran was also struck multiple times by Cruz using his fists, according to video surveillance cited by the report.
Finally, the report says Beltran struck Cruz in the face with a fist containing the stun gun and Cruz then “retreated to one of the seats” in the dayroom before he was taken into custody.
The report does not mention the severity of any injuries to either Cruz or Beltran.
“We don’t know any more than you do as of yet,” Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said in an email.
Cruz appeared at a brief initial hearing Wednesday on the assault charges, with bail set at $200,000. But he won’t be released because he is being held without bail on the murder charges.
Meanwhile, the state commission investigating the shooting heavily criticized Wednesday the actions of the sheriff’s deputy assigned to the campus, calling him a coward for not confronting the gunman.
Members of the Marjory Stoneman High School commission said Broward sheriff’s deputy Scot Peterson was “not a real cop” and was “a coward” as they reviewed video and photos of his actions during the shooting. They said Peterson did not enter the building to confront the shooter, but stayed outside.
His attorney did not respond to an email Wednesday seeking comment. Peterson is scheduled to testify before the commission Thursday. He has previously said he did not know whether the shots were coming from inside or outside the building and that he only heard two or three shots.
The commission also heard from a Pinellas County detective who investigated Cruz’s internet searches, text messages and cellphone usage.
Sgt. John Suess said Cruz’s earliest found internet search referencing school massacres happened three months before the Parkland shooting. On Jan. 21, Cruz wrote himself a cellphone note saying “life is a mess” and “unfair” and he was getting “even more agitated.”
“I want to kill people but I don’t know how to do it,” he wrote.
Suess said Cruz frequently looked up the song “Pumped Up Kicks,” where a shooter sings that other kids “better run, out run my gun.”
About a week before the shooting, he said, Cruz searched “Is killing people easy.”
On Feb. 9, five days before the shooting, Cruz did searches seeking information about homicidal thoughts and urges and for a therapist. Some commissioners believe Cruz was having second thoughts, the commission heard.
But the next day, Cruz was again looking at videos about the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings.
Three days before the shooting, Cruz made previously released cellphone videos that he never shared outlining his plans, the commission was told. He looked up how long it takes police to respond to school shootings.
On the morning of the shooting, Cruz sent innocuous texts to the friend he was living with about meeting some girls that night or that he might go to a movie.
It was Valentine’s Day and during the two hours before the shooting, Cruz tried repeatedly to engage his ex-girlfriend in phone and text conversations, but she told him to leave her alone and that she had a boyfriend. He responded, “You will always know I love you.”
He soon contacted Uber to take him to the school.