Former Navy SEAL sues over wrongful arrest at Disney Springs

John Cruz claims he was discharged from Navy as a result

ORLANDO, Fla. – A former sailor is suing for lost wages and punitive damages after a scuffle with two Orange County deputies resulted in his removal from the Navy SEAL program.

John Cruz filed the federal lawsuit against Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, two deputies and the House of Blues. He said the incident happened outside the House of Blues at Disney Springs in 2013.

Cruz said he asked a deputy who was working security detail to take a picture of him with his friends.

"I reached out with my left hand, and that was enough for him to go berserk," Cruz said.

Cruz's lawsuit claims the deputy "violently overreacted by slapping the plaintiff's hand, shoving the plaintiff, then immediately taking the plaintiff down to the ground in a leg sweep take down maneuver."

Cellphone video taken by onlookers shows deputies on top of Cruz.

"My hands were to my side. I posed no threat. I was asking (the deputy) to calm down the entire time," Cruz said. "I was being pinned down on (the deputy's) chest with my hands to my side, and multiple officers later came to assist with the arrest, and they also struck me a few times."

He said he was not fighting back, but deputies wrote the opposite in their arrest report.

They claimed, "John clenched both of his fists and lunged toward me."

One of the deputies wrote, "He attempted to strangle me."

"They lied about me choking them. They lied about me punching them," Cruz said.

As a result of his arrest, Cruz said he was removed from the Navy SEAL program and discharged from the Navy, even though a jury would later find him not guilty of battering a law enforcement officer.

"It meant everything. It was my dream," he said.

One of Cruz's attorneys said there are holes in the deputies' story.

"I know the level of training that a Navy SEAL gets. If he had tried to harm those officers, several would've been harmed," Carlus Haynes said. "Nobody missed a day from work, nobody had to go to the hospital, nobody got any treatment, but they wrote up the report as if he went all MMA on them and harmed them."

The Orange County Sheriff's Office declined to say anything, saying they don't comment on open lawsuits.

The deputies and the House of Blues did not respond to News 6's request for a comment.

Cruz's case is expected to go to trial sometime this summer.

About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.