Skip to main content
  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print

Sheriff: Suspect confesses to killing Florida deputy

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Deadly struggle "transpired within six minutes. That's all it took," sheriff says
  • NEW: Suspect faces charges including first-degree murder and escape
  • Incident happened as the deputy was transporting Michael Mazza to court
  • Mazza was apprehended after a massive manhunt
  • Next Article in U.S. »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

HOLLYWOOD, Florida (CNN) -- A man serving a life sentence for robbing a drugstore has confessed to overpowering and fatally shooting a deputy who was taking him to court Wednesday, authorities said.

Michael Mazza, 40, was arrested outside a pawn shop in Hollywood, Florida, hours after the death of Broward County Deputy Paul Rein sparked a massive manhunt.

It was the third shooting of a Broward County sheriff's deputy in four months, and the second fatality.

The incident happened as Mazza was being taken to the second day of his trial in connection with the armed robbery of a Coral Springs bank, Sheriff Al Lamberti said.

Mazza was being transported in a medical van because of a medical condition, Lamberti said.

The driver's compartment of the van was separated from the back by a cage or grill.

Mazza and Rein left about 8:05 a.m., Lamberti said. Minutes later, a truck driver who saw all or part of the altercation near Pompano Beach called 911.

"All of this transpired within six minutes. That's all it took," Lamberti said.

The struggle began when Rein apparently pulled the medical transport van over at an intersection.

The deputy's body showed other injuries from the fight -- a broken finger, bruises and cuts, Lamberti said.

Mazza allegedly took Rein's service weapon away from him and shot him, authorities said. Although two shots were fired, Rein was shot only once, the bullet entering his upper chest and exiting his lower back, Lamberti told reporters.

Don't Miss

After the shooting, Mazza is believed to have thrown Rein from the van and driven away.

A city public works employee later spotted the blood-spattered van in Fort Lauderdale, Lamberti said.

Mazza, meanwhile, is believed to have hitchhiked his way down to Hollywood, about 20 miles away. He approached a man at a pawn shop and asked for a ride. The man, who was headed to a second pawn shop, agreed.

When the man arrived at the second pawn shop, he left Mazza in the car and went inside, Lamberti said. As he was talking to the clerk, a television in the shop began broadcasting news about the deputy's shooting, and showed a picture of Mazza, he said.

The man "tells the clerk, 'Hey, I have that guy in my car,' " Lamberti said. He went back to the car, took his keys, came back and told the clerk to call police.

Mazza was arrested shortly afterward.

Rein's gun was found with Mazza in the man's car, the sheriff said.

Mazza faces charges including first-degree murder and escape, Lamberti said. He was being interviewed by police Wednesday afternoon and was to appear before a judge at some point, he said, and afterward would be transported to Dade County Jail.

Because the shooting was "an emotionally charged event for all of us ... we feel it's probably better that he be housed at another facility outside of Broward County," Lamberti said, and Dade County agreed to house him.

Mazza initially was reluctant to talk to authorities, but later agreed, and confessed to shooting Rein, the sheriff said. He offered no details.

Lamberti said Mazza was serving a life sentence for robbing a drugstore in Coconut Creek, correcting his earlier statement that Mazza was serving two life sentences. He was on trial for robbery of the Coral Springs bank.

Broward County also has a pending case against Mazza -- a February drugstore robbery in Pompano Beach, he said.

Mazza was dressed in civilian clothes -- a suit -- rather than jail scrubs Wednesday because he had a court date, authorities have said.

When caught, however, Mazza was wearing a T-shirt, shorts and sneakers, Lamberti told reporters. Police are investigating whether he had planned the escape in advance and whether anyone helped him.

Rein's co-workers told reporters he was "in outstanding condition physically." The sheriff's office has fitness-for-duty standards that deputies must meet.

Broward County deputies conduct some 400 to 500 inmate court transports a day -- one deputy transporting up to a handful of inmates, Lamberti said. Thin staffing and scant resources prevent more than one deputy being involved, he said.

"It's a routine thing," Lamberti said. "But it shows, in this profession, nothing is routine, whether it be a domestic, a traffic stop or just transporting an inmate to court."

As news of the escape broke, all 273 schools in Broward County went on lockdown, according to Nadine Drew, a spokeswoman for the school system.

Lamberti said Rein's wife spoke to her husband by cell phone just 10 minutes before he was shot.

"She said you never think it's going to happen to you," the sheriff said.

The deputy was memorialized Wednesday on the Web site of the Broward County Sheriff's Office. Visitors to the site were greeted by a photo of Rein, with a caption saying, "Husband. Father. Friend." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About ShootingsBroward County

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print