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September 21, 2023

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Convicted robber shoots deputy, escapes transport

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – An elderly sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot as he transported a convicted robber to court yesterday and authorities captured the convict after a manhunt and said he was found with the deputy’s gun.

Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti said Michael Mazza – already serving a life sentence for armed robbery – may have had accomplices who ambushed 76-year-old Paul Rein as he drove Mazza to court for his trial on a separate robbery.

Mazza, 40, was arrested at a Hollywood pawn shop shortly after noon, about four hours after Rein was found shot and bleeding in a parking lot, Lamberti said.

The two were alone but separated by a partition in a medical van, and Mazza was wearing handcuffs, authorities said.

Mazza, dressed in a suit and tie for court, was being transported in the medical van because he had complained of a bad back. Lamberti said it was a routine transport, done “hundreds of times a day.”

The van was later found empty 20 miles away in a Fort Lauderdale restaurant parking lot.

Traffic backed up for miles and schools were placed on lockdown as authorities launched a manhunt after the shooting. Investigators still were trying to figure out his steps, but a man who refused to give his last name said he met Mazza at another pawn shop, and Mazza asked him for a ride.

Mazza wasn’t wearing handcuffs, said his name was Tony and said he didn’t care where they went, the man said.

“He said he just had an argument with his wife, and he left from up state,” said the man, who gave his name only as Mark. “He was sitting down at a store, all exhausted and everything … and his leg was messed up, hurting.”

They went to a soup kitchen and got something to eat, the man said, and then to the Hollywood pawn shop. Mazza stayed in the car, and when the man went inside, he saw Mazza’s picture on television and realized his passenger was a fugitive.

“I freaked out,” he said.

He and the manager called 911, and police arrived.

Mazza 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 yesterday 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 from The Associated Press.

Rein served as a Broward deputy from 1987 to 2000.

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