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Parkland shooting suspect accused of attacking deputy in jail, faces more charges

The 20-year-old charged with killing 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school was arrested again Tuesday evening after attacking a sheriff’s deputy, repeatedly hitting him and taking one of the deputy’s weapons, authorities said.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday that Nikolas Cruz attacked a detention deputy while in the main jail, where he is being held awaiting trial on 17 counts of murder in the first degree and 17 counts of attempted murder stemming from the February massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Cruz, who faces a possible death sentence if convicted on those charges, now faces new charges of assaulting an officer, battery on an officer and using a device akin to a stun gun on an officer.

The 17 lives lost in the Parkland school shooting

According to the arrest paperwork, Sgt. Raymond Beltran was assigned to guard Cruz while the inmate walked around a day room area in the jail. When Beltran told Cruz not to drag his sandals, the inmate responded by showing Beltran his middle finger. Beltran began to stand up and then the inmate “rushed him and struck him in the face,” the report stated.

Surveillance video showed Cruz rushing Beltran, hitting him with his left fist and taking him to the ground, where he used his other fist to hit Beltran “multiple times on the top of the head,” according to the complaint affidavit.

The deputy could be seen trying to get on top of Cruz, who then grabbed an electrical weapon — likely what is known as a Taser device — off Beltran’s belt, the report states. Cruz briefly had this weapon in his possession, and the two began struggling for control of it, during which time the weapon could be seen discharging.

Red flags. Warnings. Cries for help. How a system built to stop the Parkland school shooter repeatedly broke down

The report, filed by another officer in the Broward Sheriff’s Office, states that Cruz hit Beltran “several more times” until the deputy, his hand containing the electrical weapon, hit the inmate in the face. Cruz then went to a seat in the room, and the deputy took him into custody.

The police report identified the device only as a “conductive electronic weapon,” and a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office did not respond to a request for more information about the weapon or its manufacturer.

Last month, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel announced that deputies had to begin carrying “at least one less-lethal weapon” on duty and included among the possibilities the electrical weapons known as Tasers. These devices can typically deliver a shock to someone in two ways: through barbs fired from a distance, which can incapacitate someone; or when pressed against their body, which is called a “drive stun” and causes pain but does not incapacitate them. It is unclear from the report whether the device’s barbs were fired or whether the device went off in drive-stun mode.

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An attorney for Cruz said they had not heard anything beyond the news that he was accused of attacking a deputy and faces new charges. The attorney also said Cruz was likely to appear in court on the new charges on Wednesday afternoon.

Cruz was apprehended on Feb. 14, the day of the massacre, and police said he confessed to carrying out the attack. A transcript of his police interview after the attack depicted him claiming that he had heard a “demon” in his head urging him to hurt people. After some attacks, people who know the suspects say they were surprised by what happened, while after the Parkland massacre it emerged that authorities had ignored or missed repeated red flags, including multiple warnings to police and the FBI that he posed a threat to a school.

His lawyers have also acknowledged his guilt. They have said he would plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but prosecutors say they intend to pursue the death penalty.

Further reading:

Surviving Parkland: A teen’s road to recovery

‘Can you play dead?’ New details about the chaos and fear that surrounded the Parkland massacre.

Broward deputy didn’t go inside Parkland school during shooting because he thought the gunfire was outside, lawyer says