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2 Fla. deputies killed by cruiser during pursuit

Officer Down: Deputy Sheriff Jonathan Wallace
Officer Down: Deputy Sheriff Donta Manuel

By The Associated Press

PAHOKEE, Fla. — Two Palm Beach County sheriff's deputies who had tried to stop a stolen vehicle on a rural road in the Everglades were killed when they were struck by a police car early Wednesday. Another deputy was injured, authorities said.

Scores of officers combed the region looking for two suspects in the car theft, and later said they had one man in custody.

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The deputies had put spikes on a road that punctured the stolen car's tires. But when they ran to take the spikes off the road they were struck by a canine patrol vehicle at about 1:45 a.m., Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said.

''They probably did not estimate the K-9 was coming at the speed that it was,'' Bradshaw said at a news conference, noting that it was dark at the time.

It was not immediately clear what happened to the stolen car after its tires were punctured, but investigators tracked skid marks to a car that went into a canal in Pahokee, a town on the shore of Lake Okeechobee about 45 miles west of West Palm Beach.

Two men suspected of stealing the car were initially believed to have fled into sugarcane fields between Pahokee and Belle Glade, and at least 75 officers and several canine units spent five hours combing the fields.

However, that focused search was ended and detectives pursued other leads, with deputies driving back roads in the area.

Police later said they had one person in custody but weren't sure yet if he was one of the two suspects. Bradshaw said authorities also wanted to talk to a 19-year-old male but he did not call him a suspect or explain investigators' interest in him.

The chase began after a Belle Glade resident called police to report that a neighbor's car was being stolen. Deputies who responded saw the car and followed it.

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw talks to the media at a press conference in Pahokee, Fla., Wednesday. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
The sheriff identified the dead officers as 13-year veteran Donta Manuel, 33, and Jonathan Wallace, 23, who had been with the sheriff's office for 1 1/2 years.

The injured deputy was being treated for head injuries.

The dead deputies are the fourth and fifth south Florida law enforcement officers killed this year.

Broward Deputy Paul Rein, 76, was killed Nov. 7 while transporting a suspect to court. Michael Mazza, 40, is jailed after being charged in the slaying.

Broward Sgt. Chris Reyka, 51, was shot while as he was looking for stolen vehicles Aug. 10. His killer is still being sought.

In September, Miami-Dade County police officer Jose Somohano was shot by a man who ambushed him and three other officers with an assault weapon. A suspect was killed by officers hours later in Broward.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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