Black Collar Crime: Pastor Wilmer Cruz and His Wife Assault Police Officers Looking for Runaway

pastor wilmer cruz

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Wilmer Cruz, pastor of Inglesia Cristiana Evangelica Church in Lilburn,Georgia, was arrested Tuesday after he and his wife and two children assaulted police officers looking for a runaway teenager. His wife and two sons were also arrested. According to one news report, the runaway was pregnant by one of Pastor Cruz’s sons.

Raw Story reports:

A minister in Lilburn, Georgia was arrested alongside his wife and sons after they attacked police officers at church.

Atlanta’s WSB-TV reported Tuesday that police in the Gwinnett County church were looking for a runaway teenager who was said to be at the Inglesia Cristiana Evangelica Church when an altercation ensued.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Wilmer and Cristina Cruz, the minister and his wife of the church, were arrested along with their 16 and 17-year-old sons after not cooperating with the officers who came to the church looking for the missing girl, who was later returned to her parents. In the ensuing fight, Cristina Cruz took one of the two officers’ Tasers, and Wilmer and one of their sons pinned an officer against a door.

The parents and their eldest son were charged as adults and are being held without bond, while the 16-year-old son was charged as a juvenile.

…..

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution adds:

“I’ve never seen something that could have been so innocent escalate so quickly because of lack of cooperation,” Lilburn police Lt. Tim Allen told Channel 2.

Authorities said they got a call about a missing girl in the 4800 block of Lawrenceville Highway. They went to rescue the girl, who was in a tan Cadillac Escalade, but things escalated.

“As the officers walked toward the vehicle, several people approached the officers,” Chief Bruce Hedley said in a statement. “Officers repeatedly instructed people to stand back and continued to attempt to speak to the missing juvenile in the parked car.”

Hedley said onlookers didn’t listen, leading to an altercation. Some officers were kicked and choked, he said.

At one point, when an officer put his Taser in Wilmer Cruz’s back, Cristina Cruz grabbed it from the officer’s hand and pointed it at him, video obtained by Channel 2 shows. After Cristina Cruz was arrested, Wilmer Cruz and Wilmer Cruz Jr. were seen pinning an officer against a door. One of the sons was also seen on video taking an officer’s radio.

“At some point during the scuffle, the other officer tried to call for backup but couldn’t because (someone) was on the radio talking on it,” Allen said.
As for the missing girl, she was returned to her mother.

“They had my daughter. They won’t let her have communication with me,” the mother told Channel 2. “The lady at the church was yelling at me. They said they had custody from (the Division of Family and Children Services) but it’s not true.”

WSB adds:

A temporary restraining order was issued for a Gwinnett County minister’s wife a week before she was seen on video brawling with police officers during a missing child rescue, court documents show.

Ana Cardenas Robles filed for the order against Cristina Cruz on March 19, alleging the minister’s wife stalked her and threatened her with deportation and refused to let her have contact with her teenage daughter.

Robles told the court the Cruz family took her daughter, who is pregnant by one of their sons. The family told Channel 2 Action News that the Division of Family and Children Services granted them guardianship.

A restraining order was also filed against Wilmer Cruz, but it was dismissed by a judge, according to court records.

Cristina Cruz is not allowed within 200 feet of Robles, according to the order. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

….

An April 3, 2018 Atlanta Journal-Constitution report adds:

When a Lilburn police officer responded to a missing person rescue call at a church last month, he had no idea he’d practically be fighting for his life.

“I was slammed against the glass door, hitting my head very hard against the glass,” Sgt. Ryan Long said in at a preliminary hearing for the Cruz family on Tuesday. “Mr. (Wilmer) Cruz was choking me to the point I couldn’t breathe.”

On March 25, Long and several other officers fought with Cruz, 38, his wife Cristina Cruz and their 17-year-old son Wilmer Cruz Jr. in the parking lot of the family’s church, Iglesia Cristiana Evangelica. The brawl was caught on police body cameras and cellphones.

Authorities said they got a call about a missing girl in the 4800 block of Lawrenceville Highway. They went to rescue the girl, who was in a tan Cadillac Escalade, but things escalated.

Long testified he put his Taser in Wilmer Cruz’s back, but Cristina Cruz grabbed it from his hand and pointed it at the officer.

“I grabbed Mrs. Cruz by the arm and told her she was under arrest for grabbing my Taser,” Long said. “She refused and would only say: ‘Jesus love(s) me.’”

After Cristina Cruz was arrested, Wilmer Cruz and Wilmer Cruz Jr. were seen in the video pinning Long against a door, the officer testified. One of the sons was also seen on video taking an officer’s radio.

Long testified the family likely fought back because they believed: “Officers were not allowed to fight back against them.” The family also threatened to kill his mom, Long said.

….

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19 Comments

  1. Jake

    Greetings to all the friends and followers of this interesting news that is going viral in social networks and in many countries of the world. Police arrested Pastor Wilmer R. Cruz, his wife Cristina Cruz and their two teenage sons.
    I just want to give a very simple and simple opinion I hope with all due respect not to bother anyone, from the point of view legal on both sides was lack of professionalism and ethics, I think it is natural that the reaction of the parents of these boys turned or vice versa the boys in defense of the parents, it is very easy to judge or make a false criticism simply by the reaction of the religious family as you want to call it, but the pastor’s family collaborated from the beginning, the officer asks once of whom is the car the young man answers is my father’s? the officer asked another question where is your dad, the young man answers inside, why? the official gives his first wrong answer without ethics without protocol as representative of the law and rather losing control instead of taking control of a situation, It was the office, the one who puts everything in limbo and escalated the situation and tells the young man, is not of your business, If someone is going to look for a family member it’s obvious that you would ask why? in my opinion from the legal point of view is the officer who alters things and adrenaline betrays him by acting deliberately with screams & brutal aggression towards the family. There is no evidence of his claim that the young boy or pastor took him by the neck and tried to choked him, there are so many cases where the police have abused civilians and have taken out the weapon only to shoot and so many innocent people have lost their lives for the same situation, instinctively the family tried to prevent the use of weapons but it is there where the authority loses its protocol.

    If this situation has escalated in other cultural environment or on a non-religious people this would have ended in tragedy. By watching the videos carefully, you can contemplate the young man who was in the truck trying to return the radio to the officers. You could see the radio fallen from the officer but you cannot see someone grabbing or yanking as he describes, I think this officer of dwarf stature showed aggression, arrogance, discrimination, lack of police tactical preparation, an agent without scruple and without sympathy & respect to the mother of the young people while she is handcuffed and shoved her so violently and forced her towards the floor, There should have been the presence of a female officer especially if it was the rescue of a young female. After the aggression, the harassing officer complains of a massive headache, confusion, trauma, without Voice and with moans of pain, but pain of what?

    Ask how the mother of these youngsters will feel how her arms feel with her hands on her back when he puts the weight of his body with his knee on her back, when he shoved her to the ground with brutal force, how the boys feel with the unnecessary release of the electric guns and the chili shot that the official did without responsibility to serve and protect, how this young boys feel seeing her mother brutally shoved to the floor. That situation will form any chaos without any doubt. I feel sorry for the psychological situation that these children went through, the girl must say her version and is the one that we need to know according to other reports was not the first time she run away from home. (this was not a rescue because they didn’t have her under a knife or gun point was not tied or torture, I think it was rather an ongoing investigation but unfortunately the official escalated everything), as I repeat, on the video you do not see the family trying to drag the retractable baton or stick, it was pulled by the officer, but the officer on some point feels overwhelm with the fixed look of the young man who is standing next to the his father the pastor. Obviously the situation escalated when the officer hit the young to the chest and the father in the feet everything becomes a lack of control.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      You make assertions about this event that are not shown on the video. You weren’t there, neither was I. That said, what I did see was consistent with what the police reported (and I have, on many occasions, objected to how police use force).

      You ignore the crux of the issue; that the police were looking for a runway that they believed was being harbored by the Wilmer’s; a minor girl who was pregnant by one of the pastor’s sons.

      I have yet to read a news report that suggests the police behaved inappropriately. Is it possible that they did? Sure, but, as of today, there is no evidence that they did except for you saying they did.

      You seemingly justify the violent response of the Wilmers to the police — it’s what anyone would do. First, I would have complied with police orders. Second, I would have cooperated with the police. They were, after all, looking for a teenage runaway. Just doing these two things would have liked resulted in a non-violent outcome.

      You want to dismiss the religious aspect of the story, and by doing so you can, in your mind anyway, justify how the Wilmers violently responded to the police. However, it is fair to ask if the Wilmers acted in ways consistent with their Biblical beliefs. If Jesus is their example, how would Jesus have responded to the police? By responding the way they did, the Wilmers pretty much invalidated their religious beliefs.

      The Black Collar Crime Series relies on news reports for its information. If and when further reports are made, I will add them to this post. If you see a news report that challenges what is said here, please send it to via email and I will add it to this post.

      Reply
  2. Jake

    As i repeat: according to other reports was not the first time the girl run away from home. She was actually kicked from home by her maternal mother, The girl is also pregnant from one of the tenagers. The familly didn’t have her under a knife or gun point was not tied or torture, I think it was rather an ongoing investigation but unfortunately the official escalated everything and escalated to altercation, as I repeat, on the video you do not see the family trying to drag the retractable baton or stick, it was pulled by the officer.

    bviously the situation escalated when the officer hit the young to the chest and the father in the feet everything becomes a lack of control.
    The most appropriate thing to do was to take the calm and tell the pastor when it came out that they wanted to talk to him about that matter rather of focusing on aggression towards them.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Update posted, including video.

      Reply
      1. Jake

        It’s ridiculous how the aggressive officer think he was the victim when in reality he escalated a simple investigation to a dangerous altercation.

        Reply
        1. GeoffT

          It seemed to me that the aggression was coming from the pastor and his wife. My sympathies here are entirely with the police, who appear to have acted properly.

          Reply
          1. Jake

            Did you see how it started? the pastor’s family collaborated from the beginning, the officer asks once of whom is the car the young man answers is my father’s? the officer asked another question where is your dad, the young man answers inside, why? the official gives his first wrong answer without ethics without protocol as representative of the law and rather losing control instead of taking control of a situation, It was the office, the one who puts everything in limbo and escalated the situation and tells the young man, is not of your business, If someone is going to look for a family member it’s obvious that you would ask why? in my opinion from the legal point of view is the officer who alters things and adrenaline betrays him by acting deliberately with screams & brutal aggression towards the family. There is no evidence of his claim that the young boy or pastor took him by the neck and tried to choked him, there are so many cases where the police have abused civilians and have taken out the weapon only to shoot and so many innocent people have lost their lives for the same situation, instinctively the family tried to prevent the use of weapons but it is there where the authority loses its protocol.

          2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            All you are doing repeating yourself. You weren’t there, right? So, you have no more evidence than the rest of us. What we do have are reports and videos. I’ve concluded, based on the videos and news reports, that the Wilmers attacked the police officers. They are fortunate they didn’t get shot. You saying otherwise over and over doesn’t change my opinion.

            I’ve given you the opportunity to say your piece. If you have no further EVIDENCE to add to this report, please consider thus your last comment.

  3. Jake

    It’s ridiculous how the aggressive officer think he was the victim when in reality he escalated a simple investigation to a dangerous altercation.

    Reply
  4. Jake

    Comment deleted

    Reply
  5. Brian

    What appears in the video is an officer being manhandled/restrained by citizens. I wonder why he did not react with more force while being pinned as he was… I detest bully policing but I don’t see ividence of that in this matter. If you physically take hold of me, then expect me to warn you very briefly, then get very physical back at you. I see a cop acting with restraint here and people abusing him. (I know nothing of the history here or what happened before and after the video.)

    Reply
    1. Jake

      Comment deleted

      Reply
  6. Jake

    Bruce Gerencser. You deleted my post. Learn how to debate my point brother.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I told you “All you are doing repeating yourself. You weren’t there, right? So, you have no more evidence than the rest of us. What we do have are reports and videos. I’ve concluded, based on the videos and news reports, that the Wilmers attacked the police officers. They are fortunate they didn’t get shot. You saying otherwise over and over doesn’t change my opinion. I’ve given you the opportunity to say your piece. If you have no further EVIDENCE to add to this report, please consider this your last comment.”

      I will not approve any further comments by you.

      Reply
  7. Jake

    Comment deleted

    Reply
  8. Jake

    Comment deleted

    Reply
  9. D

    Its amazing that even with the variety of videos shot from diffferent angles, being posted on several sites, which along with the background and information provided about the circumstances and history about this story, that people would argue the Cruz family can justifiably defend their actions.

    I absolutely agree the officers acted as I would want and expect them to. I am, as noted, surprised they did not take more aggressive action given the combativeness and behavior of the Cruz family.

    I hope they all get an appropriate jail sentence. The sons obviously don’t respect the law and I would be surprised with a start like this in their ‘pre-adult’ lives, that they become ‘upstanding’ law-abiding citizens that learn to listen and obey an officers orders. The parents? Great role models.

    Reply
  10. Joshua

    There is VERY clear video evidence now of the one officer being pinned up against a door being chocked. Their actions are deplorable, the amount of force they used against POLICE is not acceptable. The officers conducted themselves well, I don’t think any court in the world would condemn the officers had they used more for than they did. There was a clear need to control the situation. The family should count themselves VERY lucky the officers choose to not use more force.

    Reply
  11. Jill Sacsayhuaman

    I am late to the table for this case, and I will have more info than most at first post. That said…

    I am not a fan of the police, not at all and have as many issues with religious people, but for ever different reasons. I would not have expected the family to act as they did. I am wondering where they got the idea that cops do not fight back and that they could put hands on anyone, let alone cops. I hope that person, who told them that, gets a good dose of Karma.

    I have an insight that you guys do not, it seems, about runaways. Being a runaway is very complicated, but there are underlying common themes among most teens who do run. The biggest is rebellion against a parent. Whether that’s from abuse or from a strict upbringing, it’s rebellion. Being a rebel, fighting for a cause, takes crazy amounts of energy and keeping that steady force going is impossible. It ebbs like the waves and tides. So there are moments of furious fight and then an easing up, and back again. Fight the parent, want to go home, rebel against the parent, get seriously homesick. Being pregnant on top of that would just add fire to the problems. The family’s input would have seemed like both interference and concern, at the same time. As a runaway the people who you have contact with have an amazing amount of influence over you too. Their suggestions and opinions become yours. Mostly because you don’t want to be kicked out, so you become agreeable. You also tell lies on your parent, making everything seem so much worse, because you want to have that sympathy.

    I don’t know the details of the girl’s relationship with her Mom, but I do know these common themes. So Mom might be a monster that the girl needed to escape from, but most likely Mom is just a regular Mom and fights with her teenager got bigger then she would ever have wanted. So all this friction builds between the families. Throw a teen love story and a baby on the way into the mix and it’s a perfect storm.

    For some reason the Ministers whole family felt that they were protecting the girl, who is now family by extension of the boy and baby. This is so complicated it could be a Telenovela.
    I am curious about the restraining order the girls mother had against the preacher’s wife. I have found out the judge wouldn’t issue one for the preacher, but the wife was accused of stalking and harassment. I would love to know that chain of events.

    I am glad the mother was smart enough to know when these folks would be at church and that she kept her distance. Having a missing children is no joke, even when the child ran away. I’m glad the girl is with her mother and with as highly publicized as this case is, CPS will be involved. They’ll make sure the girl and her baby are going to ok in Mom’s house. If there is the smallest inkling of trouble she will be pulled out.

    The case behind the brawl video is really not the issue when it comes to the charges the preachers family has managed to rake up. In the first court appearance it seemed that the wife was holding on to ‘I did nothing wrong’, the preacher wore a Cheshire cat smile, which I thought was inappropriate. I am sure his lawyer is telling him something that makes him believe they will all be fine. But I have my doubts. What they did by attacking the officers pretty much sealed the felonies. My thoughts go back to the person who told them the police were powerless. Shame on them for their lies.

    I’ve watched the long and short videos several times and it’s just shocking how they so easily put hands on another person and it was a cop! Sure there are things I wish the cops had done differently, but the blame for the hands on brawl lies with the family and their cocky attitudes. I am doubtful as to how the younger brother got hold of the walkie. Did he grab it or pick it up. It matters. Either way he shouldn’t have used it. The older brother has his father’s catish grin and I hope it doesn’t come out in front of a judge, for his sake considering he is facing a felony and he did the choking part if the brawl. The preacher and his wife will be found guilty if their felonies, in my opinion. The videos make it pretty clear they were hands on with the cops and she was very defiant.

    It’s all a shame. They thought they were protecting family. They evidently thought attacking police is acceptable, but ignorance of the law is no excuse. I haven’t looked yet to see what the max time they are all looking at, but I’m sure it quite a bit. Then, if deportations stay the course, they will be put on a plane right away.

    So, contrary to my usual stance, I am siding with the police on this. Like I said, there are parts I’m not to happy about, but I think there was justification for their actions. Honestly, a whole lot of cops would have started shooting as soon as that taser was grabbed.

    Reply

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