11/07/2007

Manhunt ends for suspected killer of Fla. deputy

Sheriff: Mazza confessed to shooting deputy

By Akilah Johnson
Orlando Sentinel

POMPANO BEACH, Fla.— Michael Mazza fired two shots at the deputy who was taking him to court Wednesday morning, Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti said. One hit his target, and that was enough to take the deputy's life.


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Lamberti said Mazza, accused bank robber, will be now be charged with first degree murder and escape for killing of Deputy Paul Rein, 76, a 20-year veteran of the Broward Sheriff's Office. The suspect will be detained in Miami-Dade County Jail, according to the sheriff.

"We all feel it's probably better that he be housed at another facility outside of Broward County," Lamberti said. He said he didn't want Mazza staying in a jail supervised by Rein's colleagues, and wanted to avoid anyone accusing the Sheriff's Office of mistreating Mazza while he is in custody.

Mazza, 40, of Coral Springs, who was caught early Wednesday afternoon, confessed to shooting Rein, Lamberti said.

Speaking at a news conference late Wednesday afternoon, Lamberti described how a routine inmate transport from the jail to the courthouse turned into the second fatal shooting of a sheriff's deputy in four months and a massive manhunt for his killer.

"Six minutes. That's all it took," Lamberti said. Rein and Mazza left the North Broward jail at 8:05 a.m. and by 8:11 a.m. dispatchers received a 911 call reporting the shooting.

The sheriff said for some unknown reason Rein pulled into a parking lot at 1401 Powerline Rd. There was a fight. Rein broke a finger and cut and bruised his head.

During the struggle, Mazza grabbed Rein's gun and fired twice, striking Rein, who was not wearing a bullet-proof vest, once in the upper chest, Lamberti said. Mazza then dumped Rein's body in the parking lot and escaped in the sheriff's office van, officials said.

"We're sad to report we've lost another deputy," a somber Lamberti said earlier Wednesday afternoon. Rein's wife spoke to her husband on his cell phone about 10 minutes before the incident, Lamberti said.

A truck driver watched Rein getting pushed from the van and called 911 about 8:11 a.m., officials said. Rescue crews arrived and took Rein to North Broward Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Mazza drove south, eventually dumping the white, ambulance-like vehicle outside a Flanigan's restaurant at Southwest 27th Avenue and Davie Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. He then hitchhiked his way south to Hollywood, Lamberti said.

A man shopping at the Dixie Pawn Shop at Scott Street and Dixie Highway saw a bloody and limping Mazza, took pity on him and offered to give him a ride, police and witnesses said. The two drove to a second Hollywood pawn shop, Uptown Pawn Jewelry at 6020 Hollywood Blvd, about noon, police and witnesses said.

The man, who was not identified, walked inside the store looking for speakers when he noticed Mazza's mug shot on the television, said storeowner Scott Kelly. The man, Kelly said, started screaming, "That's the guy! That's the guy in my car!"

"He goes out to the car, removes the keys from the vehicle and goes back into the store and asks the clerk to call police," Lamberti said.

Mazza was arrested by Hollywood police officer in the pawn shopt parking lot about 12:30 p.m., said Hollywood Police Capt. Tony Rode.

Forty minutes later, Mazza was led in handcuffs into Broward Sheriff's headquarters at about 1:10 p.m., wearing a white T-shirt, shorts and socks and appearing to limp on his right foot.

By 5: 30 p.m. Mazza was sitting in the Broward County Courthouse-his original destination-waiting to be arraigned on first-degree murder and escape charges in magistrate court.

Staff writers Sofia Santana Brian Haas, Joel Marino, Paula McMahon, Andrew Tran, Tonya Alanez, Sallie James and Rhonda J. Miller contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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