Johnathan Cruz talked about leaving town after he’d started his “purge,” according to court documents. The 19-year-old had already killed twice, court documents said, and he told one of his girlfriends he needed to leave Indianapolis “asap.” But another man died before Cruz finally would be arrested, ending a four-day crime spree modeled after the plot of the horror film series “The Purge,” in which the United States government designates a 12-hour period where all crimes, including murder, are legal.
Cruz now faces three murder charges in connection with the shooting deaths of Billy Boyd and Jay Higginbotham on May 12, and Jose Ruiz on May 15. He also faces a slew of other felony charges connected to the alleged crimes, including robbery, intimidation and more. Prosecutors are also pursuing a criminal gang enhancement.
His initial hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. on June 2 in Criminal Court 3, and, because of the circumstances of the crimes, prosecutors say Cruz could face life in prison without parole, or the death sentence.
“We will not make that decision any earlier than at least 30 days down the road,” said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry during a press conference Wednesday, also noting that the teen’s victims “appeared to be 100 percent random.”
After Curry announced charges against Cruz, Mayor Joe Hogsett released a statement: “Senseless acts of violence such as those alleged in this case are incomprehensible, but thanks to the swift actions of IMPD detectives, Prosecutor Terry Curry and witnesses willing to come forward, we are one step closer to providing answers for these victims’ families.”
A probable cause affidavit describes the disturbing details of the four-day spree — one that, detectives believe, is affiliated with criminal gang activity.
Cruz’s violent “purge,” as he described it to witnesses, according to court documents, started in the early morning hours of May 12. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers found a man, later identified as Boyd, lying dead on the sidewalk in the 3900 block of North College Avenue. He’d been shot twice in the head, and Cruz is suspected of pulling the trigger.
Hours later, in the 900 block of North Denny Street, police found another man, later identified as Higginbotham, also lying dead on the sidewalk. He’d been shot multiple times, court documents said, as he tried to run away from Cruz.
That morning, Cruz’s mother sent him a text message to ask what he was doing. He responded by sending her a screenshot of a news article about the killings of Boyd and Higginbotham.
“Delete those after u read it,” Cruz told her.
“Do u know they can still pull up deleted history,” his mother responded, presumably referring to police.
“Yep Ima get a new phone soon say mine was stolen,” Cruz said.
On May 14, Cruz and another man, 18-year-old Steven Clark, are then accused of robbing a man at gunpoint near the intersection of East 10th Street and North Linwood Avenue. Cruz and Clark stole the man’s money and cellphones, according to court documents, before pistol-whipping him and running away.
Clark also has been charged with armed robbery in connection with the incident.
Later that same day, documents said, Cruz met a teen girl he’d been selling drugs to at an east-side Wendy’s. After an argument, the girl tried to leave the restaurant. Cruz grabbed her, pulled a gun from his pocket and told her he’d kill her if she left him. A manager at the Wendy’s confronted them in the parking lot and was able to take Cruz’s attention off the girl long enough for her to escape to her car.
When interviewed by detectives about the incident, the teenage girl told investigators that Cruz followed her after she left, documents said. She ended up going back to Cruz’s friend’s apartment, where Cruz tried showing her a video of him gunning down Higginbotham. The following morning, near the intersection of East Washington Street and North Linwood Avenue, IMPD officers found Ruiz shot dead in the driver seat of a Pontiac car.
Ruiz would be Cruz’s final victim, documents said, before he was arrested May 16 on charges stemming from the incident at Wendy’s two days prior.
During the investigation, homicide detectives found dozens of photos and videos that show Cruz flashing cash, throwing gang signs and waving and firing pistols.
Even while locked up in the Marion County Jail, court documents said, Cruz called to ask a friend to control his Facebook page.
“Change my profile picture to me and my kid,” Cruz told her, referring to a baby girl that can be found on his Facebook page. “Make everything where people can post on my page.”
The Facebook page also includes a video from May 14, the day of the alleged robbery, where Cruz and another man display wads of cash before Cruz says, “Get yo money.”
Several other videos show Cruz pointing a black revolver at the camera — similar to the one detectives say was used in the slayings.
And in one video, filmed in the dark, several gunshots ring out as two people laugh.