FORT LAUDERDALE — Accused Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz rushed at a jail guard and was briefly able to wrestle him to the ground during a 2018 altercation before he was subdued, according to a video shown in court Wednesday.
Cruz, making his first in-person court appearance since before the pandemic, sat quietly in an orange jump suit and shackles during the 30-minute hearing over battery and assault charges stemming from the Broward County Jail altercation. It happened nine months after the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 dead and 17 wounded.
The Nov. 13, 2018, jail altercation is being tried separately from the first-degree murder case, and Wednesday’s hearing was to determine whether prosecutors should have access to Cruz’s medical records. Prosecutors say they need to review the records as Cruz’s attorneys have indicated their defense will be that Sgt. Raymond Beltran mistreated Cruz previously and provoked the attack.
In the video, which doesn’t have sound, Cruz is seen walking alone in circles with his head down around some benches in a small indoor recreation area at the jail. He is dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, a white long-sleeve undershirt and sandals. Beltran is sitting at a table in the corner.
After several minutes, Cruz stops about 10 feet (3 meters) from Beltran and the two appear to exchange words — Beltran told investigators he asked Cruz not to drag his feet and damage his sandals. Cruz flips both middle fingers at Beltran and then charges the guard, who stands up to defend himself. Cruz, who weighs about 130 pounds (60 kilograms), is able to throw the larger Beltran to the ground briefly, before the guard is able to flip him over and briefly pin him.
Cruz escapes Beltran’s grasp and the two get into boxing stances. Cruz hit Beltran in the shoulder before the guard hits Cruz in the face, staggering him.
Beltran then arms his stun gun and points it at Cruz, who gets on the ground and is handcuffed. The fight lasted almost exactly a minute.
Prosecutor Maria Schneider told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that her team needs Cruz’s complete medical records from the time he arrived at the jail shortly after the shooting because if Beltran previously mistreated him, any injuries might have been documented.
David Wheeler, Cruz’s attorney, argued that Cruz’s medical records are private under state and federal law and at most prosecutors should only be allowed to see records of any examinations that happened within a day of the fight. Neither Cruz nor Beltran appeared to suffer any serious injuries.
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Scherer said she would rule on the prosecution’s request by Friday.
No trial date has been set for either the assault or murder cases. Cruz, 22, faces a possible death sentence if convicted on the murder charges. His attorneys have said he would plead guilty to the murder charges in exchange for a life sentence, but prosecutors have refused.
By TERRY SPENCER Associated Press