Suspect Michael Mazza apprehended; updated story to follow
Story reprinted with permission from NBC6.net South Florida
Watch continuting live coverage of manhunt
POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — A Broward Sheriff's Office deputy has died after being shot while transporting a defendant to court in Pompano Beach.
Cop killer suspect Michael Mazza
The deputy, identified as Paul Rein, a 20-year veteran of the force, was taken to North Broward Medical Center where he died, Sheriff Al Lamberti said.
Lamberti said that Rein was 76 years old. NBC 6's Tom Llamas reported that Rein had retired, but returned to the force to do lighter-duty jobs like security and transport.
The shooting happened Wednesday morning near Diamond Doll strip club in the 1400 block of North Powerline Road.
Authorities identified the suspect as Michael Mazza, 40. He was being transported to court, where he was on trial on charges of bank robbery and eluding police. He already was serving two life sentences for armed robbery, sheriff's spokesman Elliot Cohen said.
"This is a man who has nothing to lose," Cohen said. He said Mazza "should be considered armed and extremely dangerous."
Mazza is described as being 5 feet 9 inches tall and about 200 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black jacket, white shirt and a tie. Prison records show that Mazza has a heart tattoo on his chest with the inscription "Break this bitch."
Mazza was alone in the van with the deputy. Officials said Mazza threw the deputy from the transport van, shot and critically wounded the deputy before fleeing with his gun and the van.
The empty van was later found in the parking lot of a Flanigan’s Restaurant located at 2400 Davie Boulevard.
A witness to the shooting told NBC 6 that the deputy appeared to be bleeding badly.
"He wasn't moving," she said. "They were trying to stabilize him on a stretcher and it looked like they were trying to wrap him up. He was very bloody."
BSO: Attack Possibly Planned
Deputies said they are looking to possibility that this was a pre-planned attempt and that Mazza may have had help.
Mazza was being transported in a medical van because he was complaining of a back problem, authorities said. But they suspect this was fabricated to help with his escape.
Authorities were questioning Mazza's mother, who lives in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.
Mazza was on trial for a Feb. 28 bank robbery. After robbing a Bank of America in Coral Springs, Mazza led police on a short chase before he crashed his car into another vehicle, injuring himself and two others, authorities said.
Mazza's attorney, Maurice Graham, filed a mistrial Wednesday morning at court, where he and prosecutors listened to radio updates about the search for Mazza. Graham told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that he last saw Mazza on Tuesday afternoon during jury selection.
Mazza's past criminal record also includes probation for a drug offense and attempted robbery.
Schools Locked Down During Search
The Broward County School Board said that all public, private and charter schools in the county are on lockdown while the search for Mazza continues.
Traffic was backed up for miles around the scene at Powerline and Hammondville roads as investigators and deputies flooded the area, searching for the suspect.
BSO said they have asked Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties for assistance searching for Mazza. Helicopters from the three counties were hovering in the area, searching for the van.
Miami-Dade police also said the department was sending 100 officers to Broward County to assist in the search.
The Florida Highway Patrol has also launched two helicopters, which are searching Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. Troopers also have set up posts along major highways in those counties.
Anyone who sees Mazza should call 911. He is considered to be armed and dangerous.
Fourth Officer Shot In 3 Months
This is the fourth South Florida law enforcement officer and the third in Broward shot in the last three months.
Broward Deputy Maury Hernandez was shot in the head Aug. 6 during a traffic stop. He was released from the hospital Oct. 25, but suffered major injuries. A suspect was arrested.
Sgt. Chris Reyka, 51, was fatally shot as he was looking for stolen vehicles behind a drug store Aug. 10. His killer is still being sought.
In September, a Miami-Dade County police officer, Jose Somohano, was fatally shot by a suspect who ambushed him and three other officers with an assault weapon. The suspect was killed by officers hours later in Broward.
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