07/22/2004

Fla. police chase down, capture armed suspected cop killer

By Jeffrey Collins

The Associated Press

ST. MATTHEWS, S.C.- The suspect in the killing of an off-duty Orangeburg, S.C. police officer has waived extradition and agreed to come back to South Carolina, where prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

Mikal Deen Mahdi, 21, has been charged with killing Capt. James Myers while Myers was on his Calhoun County farm Sunday night. Mahdi was arrested Wednesday in Satellite Beach, Fla., still driving Myers' unmarked police pickup truck.

Mahdi also has been charged in Winston-Salem, N.C., with killing a convenience store clerk on July 15.

Mahdi has been turned over to Calhoun County deputies and state agents. Calhoun County Sheriff Thomas Summers said Mahdi should be back in the state Friday afternoon.

Prosecutor Robby Robbins said Thursday he plans to seek the death penalty against Mahdi at the request of Myers' family and the Orangeburg police.

"I don't like it and the sheriff doesn't like it when someone like this invades our county," Robbins said.

The prosecutor could recall just two other homicides in the past five years in the rural county of 15,000 located about 25 miles southeast of Columbia. It's a place where the wanted posters on a wall of the courthouse deal with fugitives from charges like forgery, failure to stop for a blue light and malicious injury to property.

Mahdi, who was released from a Virginia prison in May after being sentenced to three years for assaulting a police officer, has been on a crime spree in the past two weeks, authorities said.

He's a suspect in the theft of a car in Lawrenceville, Va. Then about a week ago, Winston-Salem, N.C., police say Mahdi went into a convenience store and talked to the clerk, 29-year-old Christopher Boggs, before shooting him several times in the head and neck and taking money and beer.

Early Sunday morning, Columbia police say Mahdi stole a car at gunpoint downtown. Later that day, Myers was shot several times on his farm and his truck was stolen, authorities have said. His wife, a State Law Enforcement Division agent, found him, Summers said.

Investigators have not figured out why Mahdi came to the Midlands, Summers said.

The sheriff said he isn't sure if Myers' truck was seen again until Wednesday evening when Satellite Beach, Fla., officers tried to pull it over for driving recklessly.

Mahdi got out, pointed a high-powered rifle taken from the truck at the officers, then dropped the weapon and tried to run away. He was captured about 20 minutes later. No one was injured.

In television footage taken after his arrest, an officer tells Mahdi, who threatened to kill a police officer when he was 14, that he did the right thing by dropping his gun.

"There was six of y'all and one of me," Mahdi replied.

Summers watched that video and said he was struck by how cold and calculating Mahdi looked. "He appeared to be the monster I had in my mind," the sheriff said.

As of Thursday afternoon, Mahdi was charged with murder, but Summers said he plans to ask prosecutors to issue burglary and grand larceny warrants in the next day.

Those charges, along with killing a law officer, would Mahdi eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted, Robbins said.

While awaiting trial, Summers plans to have Mahdi kept in a state prison. "He is extremely dangerous," the sheriff said. "One of the most dangerous people we have encountered in Calhoun County."

Summers and the others had just returned from Myers' funeral. Hundreds of officers from across the state and the Southeast came to Orangeburg to pay their final respects.

Myers joined the city of Orangeburg as a firefighter 30 years ago. Then he trained as a law officer when the fire department merged with police to create a public safety department.

"The funeral we attended this morning is one of the more difficult things I've had to do," Robbins said.

Officers from Orangeburg County agreed to answer calls in the city during the funeral so more Orangeburg Public Safety officers could attend.

Dozens of police cars, motorcycles and trucks surrounded the church near the city square. A Charleston police bagpipe group played as an honor guard carried Myers' flag-draped casket.

Myers' friend Public Safety Capt. Edward Conner said Myers thought of his land in Calhoun County as "A place he would go and wind down. He did some farming out there. It was a place he was going to continue to develop."

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