Judge Questions Competency of 2014 Crime Spree Suspect

By DAYNA DRUM | Reporter

The competency of Brian Thomas Cruz, the suspect accused of carrying out a crime spree in August 2014 in Pacific Palisades, was still under discussion at a pretrial hearing on Wednesday, May 18 — nearly two years later.

Prior to Wednesday’s hearing, Cruz submitted a letter to the district attorney’s office and the Los Angeles Superior Court requesting his counsel, public defense attorney Bart Seemen, be removed as his representation. The request comes just over six months after Seemen took over the case from public defender Tiffiny Blacknell.

Brian Thomas Cruz at a court appearance in August 2014 Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer
Brian Thomas Cruz at a court appearance in August 2014
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

A visibly frustrated Cruz explained he believes Seemen was assigned to his case by the Department of Homeland Security in an effort by the department to keep Cruz from going public with information he has.

Cruz faces 16 counts stemming from an alleged crime spree on August 11, 2014. Cruz allegedly began his string of crimes by breaking into an elderly woman’s apartment and forcing her to drive him in her car at knifepoint. The 85-year-old Palisadian escaped after she purposefully drove into a cement truck and fled the vehicle.

In a 911 call the woman relayed the situation and said, “He thinks everyone’s after him,” according to a recording played in a preliminary hearing early last year.

Cruz is accused of going on to steal two more vehicles and breaking into a second residence.

Although Cruz’s mental competency was evaluated in 2014, Judge Mark Windham deemed it necessary to evaluate him again, citing his “obvious” displays of paranoia and distorted thought process. While Cruz adamantly declared himself sane, Judge Windham suspended criminal proceedings until he is further evaluated. Cruz is due to appear in court again on June 22.