Kelly Cruz had been accused of stomping suspect in head during drug raid
Updated at 1:15 p.m. with state police comment
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
More than four years after being accused of using excessive force during a drug bust, a veteran state police narcotics investigator has been acquitted of federal civil rights charges.
A jury deliberated less than two hours on Tuesday, April 14, before issuing its decision. The indictment against Kelly Cruz, 44, of Oxford, followed a complex series of legal procedures involving the same incident that dates back to Aug. 19, 2009, in Exton, and included a private criminal complaint, a civil lawsuit, and a state grand-jury probe.
“It’s a great victory,” said Cruz’s attorney, Christian J. Hoey. He said the case contained voluminous police reports, many of them inconsistent. He said Cruz’s testimony “was clearly the most believable set of events.”
The federal indictment alleged that Cruz kicked Zachary W. Bare, who was mistakenly believed to have fled a methamphetamine lab that was raided, while he was lying face down down on his kitchen floor in handcuffs – force that broke Bare’s nose and pushed four teeth into his gums.
Hoey said when Cruz first saw Bare, he was not handcuffed. When Cruz returned to the kitchen, Bare, who was screaming obscenities, lunged and Cruz reacted, Hoey said. He said that about 75 members of law-enforcement attended the weeklong trial to support Cruz.
In October 2011, when the state grand jury did not recommend charges, Hoey hailed the decision as a vindication while Joseph P. Green, the attorney for Bare, deemed it a “whitewash” that essentially protected a state trooper from a corroborated assault. At the time, Green applauded the testimony of officers from West Whiteland Township who did not support Cruz’s contention that the assault was justified. A settlement in Bare’s civil suit against the state police was reached in June 2012, court records said.
When Cruz was acquitted on Monday, his contingent of law-enforcement supporters clapped and cheered and formed a line down each side of the hallway so they could congratulate Cruz when he exited the courtroom. “It was incredible,” Hoey said. “It was very moving.”
Cruz, a member of the U.S. Navy Reserves, was promoted to corporal in October 2012. He worked most recently as a patrol supervisor in the Avondale barracks. Hoey, who said Cruz was elated that he would be able to return to his job, said he saw no impediment to its being “imminent.” However, Hoey said he did not know exactly when Cruz would be back at work or what he would be doing.
Capt. William P. White, who heads the Pennsylvania State Police’s Troop J, which includes the Avondale barracks, said Cruz returned to full duty on Tuesday morning as a patrol supervisor at the Avondale barracks. “He’s just ecstatic to be vindicated and return back to work,” White said.