A man who once threatened to "hunt down" police after they raided his home and hauled away his partner and a stash of child porn, shot two Broward sheriff's deputies Thursday as they served a search warrant at his $300,000 Fort Lauderdale home, authorities said.
A bullet tore through Detective Todd Fatta's protective vest, striking him in the chest. Fatta, 33, was pronounced dead at North Broward Medical Center.
Sgt. Angelo Cedeño, 36, shot in the hand and shoulder, was in stable condition after undergoing surgery at North Broward, sheriff's officials said.
"Every day, 365 days a year, we remind ourselves of the danger associated with the job that deputies and law enforcement officers do - and hope that tragedy will not touch us, " Sheriff Ken Jenne said at a midday news conference, tears welling in his eyes. "Unfortunately, today we have once again become all too aware of it."
The suspected shooter, arrested after a brief exchange of gunfire, was identified as Kenneth Wilk, 42, a man with a grudge against law enforcement. The two deputies were part of a multiagency task force called LEACH - Law Enforcement Against Child Harm - that patrols the World Wide Web in search of pedophiles and pornographers.
Schooled in the short-hand of young Web surfers, they pose as innocents in cyberspace, invariably fielding propositions from predators who try to arrange rendezvous for sex.
About 8:30 a.m. Thursday, a dozen members of the task force donned their Kevlar vests and grabbed weapons as they prepared to serve a search warrant at the home of convicted pedophile Kelly Ray Jones, 39, in the Coral Highlands neighborhood of Northeast Fort Lauderdale.
Wilk and Jones, a registered sex offender currently in the St. Lucie County Jail on federal child pornography charges, bought the home in 2000.
Task force members arrested Jones on July 15 on charges of using the Internet to send illicit images of children to an undercover detective.
BSO officials said an undercover St. Lucie County Sheriff's deputy who received the photos was the same investigator who arrested Jones in March 2001 on six counts of child pornography.
Jones violated his federal probation when he was arrested last month. His probation agreement also prohibited him from using the Internet. After Jones' arrest, "Wilk was bragging we had not found all of the child pornography, " Jenne said Thursday.
Armed with a search warrant, task force members went looking for more evidence.
Jenne said task force members initially tried to get Wilk - who had been arrested three times before on charges of obstruction, intimidation and threats to kill a police officer - to come outside. He refused.
Task force members went in.
Seconds later, neighbors heard multiple shots.
Wilk, Jenne said, opened fire as Fatta and Cedeño turned a corner inside the home.
"Mr. Wilk had several weapons, several high-caliber weapons around the house, " Jenne said.
When the shooting stopped, Fatta and Cedeño lay bleeding.
Within a few minutes, residents in the upscale neighborhood heard sirens.
When asked later whether BSO's SWAT team, with its heavy protective gear and ceramic body gear, should have gone in to get Wilk, who had threatened officers in the past, spokesman Jim Leljedal said, "It's easy to second-guess. This is an experienced law enforcement unit, and it was a judgment call."
Wilk and Jones, neighbors said, were quiet, usually seen only when they were gardening or cutting their lawn.
Wilk listed his occupation as actor, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.
He received a certificate of training at the now-closed Acting Studio in Hollywood, said Michael Gioia, the school's director of training.
"I heard some pops and then the screams of 'Officer down!' said neighbor Carol Tkatch. "I started to cry. I don't understand why they let people like [Wilk] out on the streets to go around and do things like this. These officers are trying to protect us."
Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue arrived within moments and began working feverishly on the two injured deputies, said Fort Lauderdale Division Chief Stephen McInerny.
BSO handcuffed Wilk and placed him in leg shackles. He is scheduled to appear at 1:30 p.m. today before Magistrate Judge John J. O'Sullivan at the Miami-Dade Federal Courthouse.
Neighbors say they wanted the couple gone.
RARELY LEFT HOUSE
Wilk and Jones told police in 2001 they were an actor and a temporary office employee, but their neighbors said Thursday they rarely saw the men leave the house.
"That house had pedophiles. That house had guns. Everyone in the neighborhood knew that, " said neighbor Phil Roccapriore, 43, a software specialist who lives a block away with his wife and teenage son. "This was a time bomb waiting to happen."
Herald staff writers Jay Weaver, Jonathan Abel, Hector Florin and freelancer R.C. White contributed to this report, which also was supplemented by Herald wire services.