CRIME

Suspect at large after Maryland judge killed in his home

Oct 20, 2023, 2:46 PM

Judge Andrew Wilkinson...

Judge Andrew Wilkinson was killed in an apparent shooting in the northern Maryland city of Hagerstown, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said.

(CNN) — A suspect is still on the loose after he allegedly shot and killed a state judge at his home Thursday, hours after the judge ruled against him in a child custody case, a Maryland sheriff said Friday.

“This was a targeted attack against Judge (Andrew) Wilkinson,” Washington County Sheriff Brian Albert said.

The suspect, Pedro Argote, 49, “is considered armed and dangerous,” Albert said. Argote is 5-foot-7 and 130 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes, the sheriff’s office said. He may be driving a silver 2009 Mercedes GL450 with Maryland plates.

Argote did not attend the divorce hearing earlier Thursday at which Wilkinson granted child custody to Argote’s partner, Albert said.

Wilkinson, a county circuit court judge, was in his own driveway – with his wife and son at home – when he was shot, Albert said. The 52-year-old was found around 8 p.m. in the northern Maryland city of Hagerstown, then taken to a medical facility where he died, the sheriff’s office said.

Wilkinson’s death spurred a wave of heightened security for judges throughout the county. “Out of precautionary reasons, last night troopers were deployed to protect judges residing in Washington County,” Maryland State Police said Friday.

The court where Wilkinson worked now has a “high level” of security, and all judges and court personnel are getting increased security, Circuit Court Administrative Judge Brett Wilson told CNN.

Wilkinson’s death marks the latest in a series of threats and attacks against judges or their families. More than 1,300 threats or possible threats among federal court personnel were investigated in fiscal year 2022, according to the US Marshals Service.

Last year, a Wisconsin judge was killed in a targeted attack, officials said. In August, a Texas woman was charged with threatening to kill a judge overseeing Trump’s federal election interference case.

In 2020, an attorney who had argued a case before US District Court Judge Esther Salas went to her home and opened fire, killing the judge’s son and seriously wounding her husband. Since then, Salas has called for greater privacy protections for judges.

The ‘catastrophic’ loss of a renowned judge

Born in Agana, Guam, Wilkinson had been an associate judge for the Washington County court since January 2020, according to his court biography.

Colleagues who worked with Wilkinson as a lawyer and a judge described his stellar reputation.

“Drew was an exceptional lawyer and a man who loved his family,” his former law partner Jason Divelbiss said in a written statement. “His wife and kids were always his highest priority and my thoughts go out to them at this horrible time.

“Drew was also very close with his brother and the office always filled with laughter when he dropped by,” Divelbiss wrote. “One of Drew’s greatest assets was his ability to bring stability to the most difficult situations which is what made him a great attorney, mediator and eventually judge.”

Wilkinson was “an excellent judge, truly committed to his community,” said Wilson, the circuit court administrative judge. Staff members at the court will have access to support services as they grapple with Wilkinson’s death, he said.

The slain judge also had “a contagious smile,” wrote Neil Parrott, a former delegate in the Maryland House of Delegates.

“Judge Wilkinson was an exceptional judge and was a pillar in our community,” Parrott said in a statement. “The events tonight are catastrophic for Washington County, for Maryland, and for our justice system. Judge Wilkinson served faithfully and will be severely missed.”

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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Suspect at large after Maryland judge killed in his home