Federal officials are seeking for the public’s help in finding a man suspected of murdering a Maryland judge in his driveway on Thursday night in a targeted assault.
According to Washington County Sheriff Brian Albert, the US 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 occurred hours after Argote lost custody of his children in a divorce proceeding presided over by Wilkinson.
Albert said Wilkinson, 52, was shot outside his Hagerstown house northwest of Baltimore while his wife and kid were inside. Wilkinson was brought to Meritus Medical Center, where he died, according to officials.
Albert stated during a press conference on Friday morning that Argote is armed and dangerous.
“Anyone with information in reference to Argote’s location is asked not to approach him but to immediately notify law enforcement,” the sheriff’s office wrote on social media.
Albert said Wilkinson presided over a hearing in Argote’s divorce on Thursday that Argote did not attend. During the hearing, Argote lost custody of his children, which Albert said prompted him to go after Wilkinson. Argote’s family size was not immediately evident.
“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 went on to say.
According to Maryland State Police, “troopers were deployed to protect judges residing in Washington County” on Thursday night “for precautionary reasons.” Later that morning, Albert stated that officials do not believe there is a present threat to the county’s judges.
On social media, former State Delegate Neil Parrott claimed that Wilkinson was shot “multiple times.” It’s unclear whether the suspect knew where the judge lived or followed him home.
Moe Colella, who lives next door to Wilkinson, told CBS News on Friday that he has known him and his family “for years.” “He was always nice to us, always waved to us,” recalled Colella.
Wilkinson had been a judge in the 4th Judicial Circuit since January 2020, according to the Maryland government website. Wilkinson stated at his inauguration that he wanted to become a judge to assist the community, according to The Herald-Mail.
“It’s an honor and it’s humbling, and I’m happy to serve,” he told reporters.
He was born in Agana, Guam, in 1971, and subsequently attended the University of North Carolina before attending Emory University for his law degree. From 2006 to 2012, he was an assistant Washington County attorney, and from 2006 to 2019, he served on the State Board of Law Examiners’ Character Committee. Wilkinson was also involved in youth soccer and baseball, according to the website.
Hagerstown is located about 75 miles northwest of Baltimore, on the West Virginia and Pennsylvania state boundaries.
Threats against judges are on the rise across the country. According to the US Marshals Service, federal judges received over 4,500 threats and improper correspondence during the fiscal year 2021.