Cops: Killing spree suspect inspired by movie "The Purge"

Jonathan Cruz

CBS affiliate WTTV

INDIANAPOLIS -- A 19-year-old Indianapolis man has been charged with killing three people over four days, and authorities say he was inspired by the horror movie "The Purge."

A witness told detectives that Jonathan Cruz told her he had been "purging" by shooting and robbing people, according to court documents filed Wednesday. Police said this referred to the 2013 movie starring Ethan Hawke, in which crime becomes legal for one night each year.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said the attacks "appeared to be 100 percent random" and that he would consider seeking the death penalty.

"Just when you think you can't experience anything more inexplicable and shocking, as we frequently do, you are then confronted with circumstances that almost leave you at a loss for words," Curry said.

A Marion County judge entered a not guilty plea for Johnathan Cruz during an initial hearing Thursday on three murder counts and other charges for the attacks starting May 12.

Angela Barger, who told reporters after the hearing she was Cruz's girlfriend, said she was with him at least one day during that time and didn't believe he committed the crimes.

"They're making him out to be some type of crazy, violent person and he's not," she said. "Yeah, he had issues, but he wasn't that violent."

Court documents say Cruz fatally shot Billy Boyd and Jay Higginbotham on May 12 and Jose Ruiz on May 15 during attacks on the city's east and north sides. He is also accused in the armed robbery of a man on May 14.

Curry said Cruz "went on a four-day, one-man purge." Detectives found a text message dated May 2 from Cruz saying "I Purge every night now."

Cruz was already jailed since his May 16 arrest on felony charges from a restaurant confrontation with a teenage girl two days earlier.

His public defender in that case didn't immediately return telephone messages seeking comment.

In August 2014, a high school student's hoax tweet about an impending "Louisville Purge," in which the Kentucky city would be overtaken by crime, kicked off a social media storm and prompted schools and other organizations to cancel events. No such "purge" took place. Police declined to take action against the student, but Louisville Metro Police Department Sgt. Phil Russell said they took seriously any threat "that encourages and incites violence against our community."