Transient Pleads Not Guilty in Pacific Palisades Crime Spree

Brian Thomas Cruz appears in court Aug. 14, 2014 face 19 counts in a Pacific Palisades crime spree that ended in Malibu.  Rick Schmitt/Staff Photographer Brian Thomas Cruz appears in court Aug. 14, 2014 facing 19 counts in a Pacific Palisades crime spree that ended in Malibu.

Brian Thomas Cruz pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning, Aug. 14 at the Airport Courthouse to more than a dozen charges stemming from an alleged crime spree in Pacific Palisades.

Looking disheveled in yellow and blue prison garb, Cruz, 44, mumbled his plea to Judge Keith L. Schwartz. Cruz did not post bail, which was set at $2,585,000. Schwartz ordered a medical review for Cruz, which is standard procedure for Los Angeles County sheriffs to provide if the defendant has any physical or mental health needs.

Cruz will appear next on Sept. 19 at the Airport Courthouse. He faces four felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon; three counts of carjacking; two counts each of first-degree burglary, second-degree robbery, criminal threats and reckless driving causing injury; and one count each of kidnapping and false imprisonment by violence. According to the criminal complaint, Cruz has prior convictions for burglary, robbery and forcible rape between 1989 and 1995. Cruz allegedly broke into a home around 7:40 a.m. Monday in the 100 block of Marquez Place and forced a woman at knifepoint to drive him toward the San Fernando Valley, police said. The woman intentionally crashed her car near Palisades Charter High School, but Cruz allegedly carjacked another woman, a teacher, but he also crashed that vehicle a short distance away, according to police and prosecutors. He then allegedly broke into another home and forced another woman to surrender her car keys. Cruz drove north on Pacific Coast Highway and ultimately reached Malibu before hitting several vehicles and eventually crashing again and being taken into custody. A woman and her son were flown to hospitals after being injured in the crash in Malibu, officials said. He faces a possible life sentence if convicted of all charges, according to the District Attorney’s Office.