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Brother of school shooting suspect ready to start new life

FT. LAUDERDALE, FL - MAY 11: Defense attorney Mark Lowry makes his argument on behalf of his client, Zachary Cruz during his hearing at the Broward County Courthouse asking to be allowed to relocate to Virginia May 11, 2018 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Cruz is the brother of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gunman Nikolas Cruz who killed 17 students and staff members at the school on Feb. 14. (Photo by Amy Beth Bennett-Pool/Getty Images)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The 18-year-old brother of a Florida school shooting suspect said he just wants to finish high school and “live my life” when he moves to Virginia to serve his probation for trespassing.

Zachary Cruz spoke to the Palm Beach Post Sunday while preparing to drive to Staunton, Virginia. He will be taking his mixed golden retriever named Mazie, and Colby, the fox terrier mix that belonged to his brother, Nikolas Cruz.

Cruz said he used to fight with his brother when they were younger, but said they made amends as they grew older and accepted each other’s differences. He said his brother is “a very fragile person.”

“We got along (as teenagers) in the household, we would go out and hang at the pool, walk the dogs and we used to do normal brother stuff together at home,” Zachary Cruz said.

On Friday, a judge approved Zachary Cruz’s move. His brother remains in jail in Fort Lauderdale, charged with the deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. He is also charged with 17 counts of attempted murder.

The boys were each adopted at birth. Their father died 13 years ago and their mother, Lynda Cruz, died in November.

“(Nikolas) is a very fragile person and my mom was always there for him,” Zachary said.

A month after the shooting, Zachary Cruz was arrested for trespassing on the Parkland, Florida, campus where the shooting occurred. He told deputies at the time that he wanted to “reflect” on the shootings. He was initially held on $500,000 bond because investigators said he showed the same red flags as his brother. He was arrested again May 1, this time for being spotted close to a school in Palm Beach County.

Zachary had been living with family-friend Rocxanne Deschamps. But after his second arrest, she kicked him out. He lived in a hotel until the Broward County judge approved his move to Virginia.

He will earn $13 an hour working for Nexus Services, a pro bono legal organization that is also funding his relocation.

Michael Donovan, who works for Nexus, said Zachary Cruz will live with Terry Ann Johnson. He said she will be a great mentor to him because her brother was convicted in a Virginia mass shooting in which 20 people were shot. No one died in that shooting, but her brother was sent to jail.

“When she heard (Zachary’s) case, it spoke to her,” Donovan said. “This kid is remarkably well-adjusted considered with what he’s been through. I believe he is going to be a great success … he has a story to tell that can really hopefully change the way isolated, disenfranchised kids are treated in the school system.”