The younger brother of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz today kicked off an anti-bullying campaign, saying mistreatment of his sibling may have played a crucial role in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Zachary Cruz, 18, said the initiative will establish anti-bullying student chapters at schools across the country, create a 24-hour national telephone hotline for bullying victims to call for help and provide sustained attention to the problem.
Nexus Services, the Virginia civil rights group that provided Zachary Cruz with a job and living quarters after his own run-in with the law this year, is sponsoring the campaign.
The WIN initiative, which stands for ‘We Isolate No One,’ was unveiled at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.
Agent of change: Zachary Cruz, 18, on Thursday launched ‘We Isolate No One,’ or WIN, initiative, that will establish anti-bullying student chapters at schools across the country
Zachary’s initiative is receiving financial backing from Nexus Services – a civil rights group that has been helping him over the past few months
‘I cannot sit by and watch another tragedy happen,’ Zachary told reporters. ‘At the end of the day, bullying and isolation is a national crisis. Kids are dying. The kids know. Since we know, it’s our responsibility to make changes.’
Zachary has said that he bullied his brother and others did so as well.
Nikolas, 19, is charged with 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Stoneman Douglas shooting. His lawyers say he would plead guilty if guaranteed a life prison sentence, but prosecutors have not agreed to take the death penalty off the table.
In cellphone videos prosecutors say were recorded by Nikolas Cruz before the shooting, he makes reference to being bullied and ostracized during much of his life.
‘I live a lone life. I live in seclusion and solitude. I hate everyone and everything. But the power of my (AR-15 rifle) you will all know who I am. I had enough of being told what to do and when to do,’ he says. ‘I had enough of being told that I’m an idiot and a dumbass.’
Zachary Cruz said he had no apologies to make for his brother’s actions. But he said Nikolas is not alone.
‘Our schools all over the country have ticking time bombs,’ he said.
The initiative is a marked shift in the life of Zachary, who in March was arrested for trespassing on a skateboard at the Parkland high school and was placed on six months’ probation after pleading no contest.
Zachary and Nikolas are half-brothers, sharing the same mother. They were adopted by Roger and Lynda Cruz as babies
Zachary and Nikolas are pictured above interring their mother’s ashes after her death in November 2017, just months before the school shooting
Nikolas Cruz (pictured in court on June 8), 19, is charged with 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Stoneman Douglas shooting
Prosecutors said at the time that Zachary had ‘red flags’ similar to his brother’s in terms of behavioral problems that might lead him down a criminal path or worse.
After Zachary’s probation was revoked when he drove his deceased mother’s car without a license, Nexus Services stepped in with the job offer and housing, along with counseling and other services, at their property in Staunton, Virginia.
Zachary was arrested in March for trespassing on a skateboard at the Parkland, Florida, high school (pictured in court in May)
Nexus Services specializes in helping people adjust after prison or treatment for mental problems or addiction, as well as free legal services and assistance in immigration matters, including paying bail if immigrants agree to use the company’s electronic ankle monitors.
It’s not entirely clear why Nexus decided to back this particular anti-bullying initiative, although a company press release says its intent it to ‘create much-needed awareness for an issue that is all-too-often spoken about in embarrassed and hushed tones.’
Nexus CEO Mike Donovan said his company would provide up to $1.2million in initial funding and that the first school anti-bullying chapters were like to start in Florida, Virginia and Maryland.
‘Sometimes from horrific tragedies come solutions. I want to be a part of it,’ Donovan said.
Zachary’s job as a maintenance technician at Nexus pays $13 an hour and he still faces a host of probation restrictions including no possession of weapons or ammunition, no drug or alcohol use and no visits to any school unless he is enrolled there.
Zachary is pictured in a recent Facebook photo driving a car in Virginia after getting a license
He recently posted a photo on his Facebook page of himself driving a car in Virginia after obtaining a driver’s license and boasted about starting a new job as executive director of WIN.
On the eve of the campaign launch, Zachary spoke to Local10 about his new life in Virginia and his jailed brother, whom he said he still loves dearly.
When asked what he would like the public to know about him, Zachary replied: I’m not my brother, and you don’t need to be scared of him.’