POMPANO BEACH, Fla. - A sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot Wednesday as he transported a convicted robber from jail to court, and authorities were investigating whether the attack was an ambush.
The suspect, Michael Mazza, left the deputy in a parking lot and then escaped in the department medical transport van with the deputy’s weapon, sheriff’s spokesman Elliot Cohen said. The Broward County deputy, 76-year-old Paul Rein, died at a hospital a short time later, Sheriff Al Lamberti said.
Mazza, 40, was alone in the van with the deputy as he was being taken to court in restraints for trial on charges of bank robbery and eluding police. Lamberti said Mazza, who was in handcuffs, may have had accomplices who ambushed Rein as they drove to the courthouse.
He already was serving two life sentences for armed robbery, Cohen said.
“This is a man who has nothing to lose,” Cohen said. He said Mazza “should be considered armed and extremely dangerous.”
Traffic was backed up for miles around the scene of the shooting as investigators and deputies searched for the suspect. The van was later found empty in Fort Lauderdale about 20 miles from the shooting scene in Pompano Beach.
Schools locked down
The Broward County school district locked down schools as a precaution.
Mazza had been in a medical van because he was complaining of a back problem, but it’s not clear if that was a legitimate claim, Cohen said.
The suspect was on trial in connection with 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, requested a mistrial Wednesday morning in court, where he and prosecutors listened to radio updates about the search for Mazza.
Graham did not immediately return a phone message or e-mail sent Wednesday by The Associated Press. Mazza’s criminal record also includes probation for a drug offense and attempted robbery.
Mazza’s criminal record also includes probation for a drug offense and attempted robbery.
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