Federal authorities are asking the public's assistance in the search for a man suspected of killing a Maryland judge inThursday night in a targeted attack.
The U.S. Marshals Service and local police have identified 49-year-old Pedro Argote as the suspect in the attack on Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson, which happened hours after Argote lost custody of his children in a divorce proceeding Wilkinson presided over, according to Washington County Sheriff Brian Albert.
Wilkinson, 52, was shot outside his Hagerstown home northwest of Baltimore while his wife and son were at home, Albert said. Wilkinson was taken to Meritus Medical Center, where he died, officials said.
Argote is considered to be armed and dangerous, Albert said during a Friday morning news conference.
"Anyone with information in reference to Argote's location is asked to not approach him but to immediately notify law enforcement," the sheriff's office said on social media.
Wilkinson presided over a hearing Thursday in Argote's divorce that Argote didn't attend, Albert said. During the hearing, Argote lost custody of his children, and Albert said that motivated him to target Wilkinson. It wasn't immediately clear how many children Argote has.
"We have responded to the (Argote) residence for verbal domestic assaults two times within the last few years, but no criminal record that we're aware of," Albert said.
Maryland State Police said Friday that "troopers were deployed to protect judges residing in Washington County" Thursday night "for precautionary reasons." Later Friday morning, Albert said authorities don't believe there's a current threat to judges in the county.
Former State Delegate Neil Parrott said on social media that Wilkinson was apparently shot "multiple times."
It's unclear if the suspect knew where the judge resided, or if he followed him home.
Moe Colella, who lives down the street from Wilkinson, told CBS News Friday that he had known the judge and his family "for years."
"He was always nice to us, always waved to us," Colella said.
According to the Maryland government website, Wilkinson had been a judge with the 4th Judicial Circuit since January 2020. At his swearing-in, Wilkinson said he wanted to become a judge to serve the community, The Herald-Mail reported.
"It's an honor and it's humbling, and I'm happy to serve," he said.
He was born in Agana, Guam, in 1971 and later attended the University of North Carolina before getting his law degree at Emory University. He was an assistant Washington County attorney from 2006 to 2012, and a member of the Character Committee of the State Board of Law Examiners from 2006 to 2019. The site adds that Wilkinson was active in youth soccer and baseball.
Hagerstown is about 75 miles northwest of Baltimore, near the state lines of West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Threats against judges according to the U.S. Marshals Service.nationwide. In the 2021 fiscal year, federal judges were the target of more than 4,500 threats and inappropriate communications,
-Alex Sundby, Robert Legare and Jeff Pegues contributed reporting.
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