Saturday, August 23, 2008

Suspect in agent's road-rage death: I had `anger problems'


In the days after James Wonder gunned down a federal customs agent, neighbors and friends described him as a quiet, mild-mannered senior citizen.
But Wonder admitted to having ''serious anger problems'' to nurses just minutes after he shot Donald Pettit and fled the scene to go to a doctor's appointment, according to details in a search warrant.

The warrant, which shedded more light into the mind set of Wonder after the shooting, details how a shaken Wonder, 65, told nurses on Aug. 5 he was almost killed at a stop sign on his way to his routine dialysis treatment. He also admitted that he was involved in a road-rage incident.

He referred to Pettit's killing unsolicited and said the triggerman had to be a professional killer, the document says.

All this happened about 40 minutes after reports that Pettit, 52, was killed in the parking lot of a Pembroke Pines post office.

According to police, Wonder had been driving erratically on the road when he got into a confrontation with Pettit, who worked as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent. Pettit was on duty and had his 12-year-old daughter with him in the unmarked car.

The two men eventually got into a shouting match on the road and exchanged hand gestures before pulling into the South Florida Mail Processing Center at Pembroke Pines Boulevard and Dykes Road.

The confrontation ended when Wonder pulled his concealed .40 caliber Colt Defender handgun from out of his waistband and squeezed off a single shot, striking Pettit in the head, authorities said.

Wonder then left the scene.

The shooting sparked a massive manhunt involving some 200 law-enforcement officials. Agents were originally looking for a middle-age man driving a Chrysler 300.

Wonder drove a Dodge Charger. After leaving the doctor's appointment, Wonder drove to his Pembroke Pines home, went to his backyard and buried the handgun he used to shoot Pettit in the head, according to authorities.

He then dug it back up and hid it in his two-car garage, the search warrant said.

Wonder also changed his hair color from its natural silver coloring to black and rented a car from Avis to conceal his involvement in the shooting.

On Aug. 6, Wonder returned to the Davie dialysis center in the new car and with a new hairdo, which signaled to nurses that something was wrong.

Wonder then confessed to nurses that he needed counseling to deal with his anger issues, which might have prompted nurses to call police.

Moments later, Wonder was taken into custody and eventually confessed to shooting Pettit in what has been labeled a fatal road rage incident.

Wonder has been charged with first-degree pre-meditated murder and faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.