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William Cruse

Florida Death Row Inmate

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William Cruse

William Cruse

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William Cruse was convicted of six murders, resulting in two death sentences.

On April 23, 1987, he loaded an assault rifle, a shotgun and a pistol into his car and headed in the direction of Palm Bay Shopping Center. Cruse stopped at his neighbor’s house, the Rich residence, and opened fire, striking 14-year-old John Rich, IV, who was playing basketball outside his home. John’s family rushed outside when they heard the gunshots and Cruse fired at them as well.

Cruse continued to the Publix grocery store in the Palm Bay Shopping Center, where he gathered his firearms and ammunition, and approached the entrance to the store. Cruse shot and killed Nabil Al-Hameli and Emad Al-Tawakuly as they exited the Publix and wounded their friend Faisel Al-Mutairi. Cruse wounded Eric Messerbauer and Douglas Pollack in a spray of bullets, and he killed Ruth Green, who was shot as she pulled her car into the parking lot of the shopping center. Cruse then walked over to the bodies of Al-Hameli and Al-Tawakuly, who were lying on the ground, and shot them again.

As authorities approached the scene, Cruse drove over to the Sabal Palm Shopping Center, where he again opened fire on the customers of the Winn Dixie grocery store. Cruse reloaded the rifle and fired numerous shots into Officer Ronald Grogan’s police car as he approached, killing him.

Officer Gerald Johnson was the next officer on the scene. Cruse targeted him, wounding him in the leg then shot him several more times, killing him. Cruse also fired at the rescue team who were attempting to help the fallen officers.

Cruse then went into the Winn Dixie and hunted down a stream of people who were attempting to escape through the back door of the grocery store. He began firing, wounding many people, and killing Lester Watson with a shot to the back.

Cruse re-entered the Winn Dixie and found Judy Larson and Robin Brown hiding in the women’s restroom. Cruse released Larson with orders to tell the police to turn off the lights, while he held Brown hostage in the store.

Cruse tried to negotiate with police to bring his car around and let him to leave Brevard County. If they agreed, he would then allow police to kill him. Cruse released Brown several hours later, at which time police fired tear gas and stun grenades into the store. Cruse was arrested when he was forced to leave the store.

Source: Florida Commission on Capital Cases

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