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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. - A federal agent was gunned down outside a Pembroke Pines post office Tuesday, and authorities say the shooter is on the loose.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection special agent was killed after he got into an argument in the parking lot, police spokesman Brian Davis said. The other man then pulled out a gun and fired at least one shot.

The gunman then took off.

The victim, who was not identified, was reportedly with his daughter when the shooting occurred.

Investigators were interviewing postal employees and customers in the parking lot.

The suspect is a white male, possibly hispanic, 45-55 years old with a full head of gray hair and wearing a green plaid short-sleeve shirt. They are also looking for a grey/green late model 4-door Chrysler.

Federal Agent Dies After Shooting Outside Pembroke Pines Post Office

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. -- A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent has died after he was shot outside a Pembroke Pines post office Tuesday morning, police said.

The shooting happened at the South Florida Mail Processing Center located at ***** Road and Pines Boulevard.

According to police, the victim and another man got into a fight. That's when the gunman fired a shot and fled the scene.

The victim, who has not been identified, was rushed to Memorial Regional Hospital in critical condition, according to police spokesman Brian Davis. He died a short time later.

No motive has been released, but the victim's daughter was reportedly with him when the shooting occurred, so it does not appear that he was on duty at the time.

Police are searching for a silver or light-colored Chrysler 300 driven by a light-skinned man in his 40s or 50s. According to witnesses, the man was wearing a plaid shirt.

A command post has been set up in the parking lot of the post office. Federal agents, police officers and BSO deputies have joined in the search for the shooter and the vehicle.

Copyright 2008 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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A South Florida man was charged with first-degree murder Wednesday in the killing of a federal agent outside a busy post office. James Patrick Wonder, 65, was detained without incident after a SWAT team and dozens of officers surrounded a shopping center in this community about 10 miles from Fort Lauderdale, said Pembroke Pines Deputy Police Chief Mike Segarra.
More than 400 law enforcement officers and at least two Blackhawk helicopters had been scouring South Florida for the suspect in the killing of 52-year-old customs agent Donald Pettit.
"I told you we would get him," Segarra announced at a 10 p.m. news conference to a cheering crowd. "Today is a great day."
The agent was with his 12-year-old daughter when he was shot during a fight Tuesday morning in a post office's parking lot in nearby Pembroke Pines. Authorities did not immediately know if Wonder, a Miramar resident, had an attorney.
Police received an anonymous tip that led to Wonder's arrest, but Segarra said Pettit's daughter was instrumental in identifying him.
"She's the star," Segarra said. "She is strong. She is something else. With her, and the tip we received, justice was served."
Earlier Wednesday, Pettit's widow, Ileana, pleaded for help in finding her husband's killer. She later thanked the people who turned in more than 500 tips to authorities.
"I can't thank everyone enough," Ileana Pettit said, sobbing during the late-night news conference. "I will sleep better knowing this cold-blooded killer is off the streets."

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'Person of interest' in agent's killing in custody​

Ileana Pettit, wife of slain federal agent Donald Pettit, pleads for help in finding her husband's killer at a news conference. More than 200 law enforcement officers have been looking for the gunman.

By Jennifer Mooney Piedra, Ani Martinez and Adam H. Beasley
The Miami Herald

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. - A man described as ''a person of interest'' in the slaying of a federal agent was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon at a Davie shopping center.
SWAT team members and dozens of police officers with weapons drawn surrounded the shopping center near State Road 84 and Hiatus Road about 2 p.m. Ambulances were also on the scene with gurneys, but it was not clear whether anyone was injured.
The drama unfolded outside of the plaza, which houses a school uniform store, a gymnastics school and a Pinch-A-Penny.
Police were led to the shopping center after receiving an anonymous tip by phone, said Pembroke Pines police Sgt. Bryan Davis.
''It ended up being a promising tip,'' he said.
Just before 3 p.m., police took a man into custody. He is believed to have been inside the Universal Kidney Center of Davie. His name was not released.
The massive manhunt was to find the man who killed Don Pettit, an off-duty federal agent, Tuesday morning outside of a Pembroke Pines post office at ***** Road and Pines Boulevard. Pettit's 12-year-daughter witnessed the shooting.
Earlier Wednesday, Pettit's widow, Ileana, pleaded with the public for help in finding her husband's killer.
''We need to find this dangerous man,'' a sobbing Ileana Pettit said Wednesday during a news conference in Pembroke Pines. ``We need to find him before he kills another innocent person.''
Ileana Pettit wept as she talked about how her daughter had watched her husband's slaying and how both her daughters cried all night. The family planned a large birthday party on Wednesday for her other daughter's 15th birthday.
Police are frantically hunting for his killer, who is described as six feet tall and in his 50s with a full head of slicked-back, gray hair and ''saggy'' cheeks, wearing a short-sleeved, plaid green shirt. He was also described as possibly being Hispanic with a dark complexion. The gunman drove off in a green or gray Chrysler 300.
Throughout the morning Wednesday, drivers in western Broward County -- from Miramar to Weston -- were stopped by police officers searching for clues in Pettit's murder. Some drivers were even asked to exit their cars, while police searched inside and in their trunks.
An area of Pembroke Pines, near Pines Boulevard and 208th Avenue, was shut down for a time Wednesday afternoon by police. Helicopters hovered overhead. A nearby school, West Broward High, was put on lockdown for employees and any parents and students who were visiting the campus.
The area has since been cleared.
Hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement officers are assisting in the widespread manhunt for the shooter and his car.
Millie Puldon, 40, of Miramar, said she had never seen such a swarm of police activity in her neighborhood.
As she left home Wednesday morning, she saw dozens of officers pulling over cars, talking to drivers and showing them a sketch of the shooter.
''They're on it,'' she said. ``And they're not going to let it go.''
Cars matching the description were stopped throughout the night and will continue to be until the killer is caught.
Postal carriers are handing out fliers with a sketch of the suspect, a picture of a similar car and notice of a $275,000 reward during their deliveries Wednesday.
Carlos Baixauli, a senior special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, acknowledged Wednesday morning that the next 24 hours were critical in finding the shooter.
Complicating the search is how common the car the gunman was driving is in South Florida.
''It's a large task, but it's something that can be done and has been done in the past,'' he said. ``We don't look at how big it is. We just do it.''
Pettit was a retired soldier who survived a long military career, including a terrorist bombing in Bangkok.
Pettit spent a lifetime in government and military service -- including a stint protecting former U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.
Authorities would not confirm what preceded the shooting, but federal sources close to the investigation said an argument started between Pettit and a motorist while they were driving on Pines Boulevard near the post office.
Both drivers ended up pulling into the parking lot of the South Florida Mail Processing Center on Pines Boulevard and ***** Road, where they confronted each other, the sources said. The post office has a complicated entrance, one that forces drivers to make a U-turn from southbound ***** Road.
Pettit, a polygrapher with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, was unarmed; his gun was found in his car.
Anyone with information should call Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-8477 or go online at A $275,000 reward was announced for tips leading to the suspect's arrest.

Story From: The Miami Herald

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A poster released by the Pembroke Pines Police Dept. shows James Patrick Wonder, who was charged yesterday with first-degree murder in the killing of federal agent Donald Pettit. (AP Photo)

By Jennifer Mooney Piedra, Ani Martinez and Ely Portillo
The Miami Herald

MIAMI - The man who police suspect killed a federal customs agent during a bizarre traffic dispute Tuesday was apprehended a day later in a Davie dialysis center after a massive manhunt, authorities said.
Police arrested James Wonder, 65, of Miramar, and charged him in connection with the shooting death of Donald J. Pettit, 52, of Pembroke Pines.
Pettit was gunned down -- shot once in the head -- in the parking lot of a post office at Pines Boulevard and ***** Road as his 12-year-old daughter watched.
''She cries at night,'' Pettit's widow, Ileana, said Wednesday, sobbing. ``She holds me and says she wants her daddy back.''
Federal sources close to the investigation say the shooting was sparked by a road rage incident that started as Wonder and Pettit were driving on Pines Boulevard.
For some unknown reason, the two cars pulled into the post office parking lot and ended with Pettit laying in a pool of blood beside his car.
Wonder lives in Miramar with his wife of 30 years, Aurora.
Late Wednesday, she declined to speak with a reporter when reached by phone.
Her husband, who carries a concealed weapons permit, has no prior criminal history, according to public records.

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