8-day crime spree leads to 13-year prison term

By Joe Gorman



His mother, his attorney and even a judge all seemed to agree that 20-year-old Evon Cruz was a good kid – until the drugs took control of his life.

Cruz blamed drugs for an eight-day crime spree in March 2015 where he robbed a man, shot a juvenile in the leg and shot at a city police officer and missed.

Judge John M. Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court sentenced Cruz on Tuesday to 13 years in prison on charges of felonious assault, felonious assault on a police officer and aggravated robbery, all with firearm specifications that mandate he serve at least seven years in prison.

“Growing up, I allowed bad judgment and negative influence to steer my actions,” Cruz told the judge before he was sentenced.

His mother told the judge her son was involved in sports and got good grades in school before he turned to drugs. That, she said, led to his conduct.

“When the drugs came, everything changed,” she said.

His attorney, Mark Lavelle, asked for a minimum sentence above the seven years of mandatory time, saying that would give Cruz hope, encourage him to behave in prison and take advantage of programs that could help him when he is released.

Prosecutors were recommending 15 years after Cruz entered his guilty pleas in October.

Cruz was 17 when he committed the crimes and was later bound over to common pleas court as an adult.

On March 21, 2015, he shot from a car at a juvenile who was walking on the street and wounded him in the leg. The victim now has a metal rod in his leg, said Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa.

On March 23, 2015, he used a gun to rob a man of cash while he was sitting in the man’s car to get out of the cold.

On March 29, 2015, he led city police on a chase on the South Side with drugs and a gun in the car. When the car crashed, Cruz ran away and fired two shots at officer Ryan Curry, who was chasing him. Both shots missed Curry but hit the bumper of his cruiser.

Judge Durkin asked Cruz what he was thinking when he shot at Curry. Cruz said he fell out of the car and the gun went off by accident. The second shot was also an accident because the gun went off when he fell. Cruz told the judge he was on drugs at the time and was also scared because he had a gun and drugs in the car.

Cantalamessa said after court photos of Curry’s cruiser showed the bullet holes were just a couple of inches apart, and gunshot sensor tapes of the event recorded two quick shots, back to back.

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