A reward is being offered for a suspect wanted in the fatal shooting of a Maryland judge

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — The U.S. Marshals Service is asking for the public’s help and offering a reward of up to $10,000 in the search for a man suspected of fatally shooting a Maryland judge who ruled against him in a divorce case.

Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson, 52, was shot in his driveway in Hagerstown, Maryland, on Thursday night, just hours after he awarded custody of the suspect’s children to his wife. Washington County Sheriff Brian Albert said authorities are searching for Pedro Argote, 49, for the “targeted attack” of Wilkinson.

In a news release issued late Friday, the Marshal’s Service said authorities believe Argote may be driving a silver 2009 Mercedes GL 450 with Maryland license plates. The Marshal’s Service said Argote has ties to multiple areas outside of Maryland, including Brooklyn and Long Island, New York; Tampa and Clearwater, Florida; Columbus, Indiana; and unknown cities in North Carolina. The reward is being offered for information that leads to Argote’s arrest.

Albert said Argote is considered “armed and dangerous.”

Wilkinson had presided over a divorce proceeding involving Argote earlier Thursday, but Argote was not present at the hearing, Albert said. The judge gave custody of Argote’s children to his wife at the hearing, and that was the motive for the killing, the sheriff said. The judge had also ordered Argote to have no contact with the children and pay $1,120 a month in child support.

Hagerstown, a city of nearly 44,000, lies about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of Baltimore.

Judges across the U.S. have been the target of threats and sometimes violence in recent years. President Joe Biden last year signed a bill to give around-the-clock security protection to the families of Supreme Court justices after the leak of a draft court opinion overturning the Roe v. Wade abortion-rights decision, which prompted protests outside of conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices’ homes.

In June 2022, a retired Wisconsin county circuit judge, John Roemer, was killed in his home in what authorities said was a targeted killing. That same month, a man carrying a gun, a knife and zip ties was arrested near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Maryland after threatening to kill the justice.

A men’s rights lawyer with a history of anti-feminist writings posed as a FedEx delivery person in 2020 and fatally shot the 20-year-old son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, and wounded her husband at their New Jersey home. Salas was not injured.

In August, a Texas woman was charged with threatening to kill U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the Washington case accusing Donald Trump of conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss.

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