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NBC: Police expect Reno suspect to surrender

/ Source: The Associated Press

A manhunt continued Wednesday for a pawn shop owner who is charged with killing his estranged wife and suspected in the sniper shooting of a judge in their divorce case, police said.

NBC News has learned that police believe the suspect in the case, Darren Mack, 45, wants to surrender to a relative in California, and they also theorize that Mack drove to Sacramento, a short drive from Reno,

Judge Chuck Weller was shot in the chest on Monday as he stood near his third-floor office window at the county courthouse, police said. Shortly afterward, Charla Mack was found dead in the garage of her apartment, and authorities launched a manhunt for her husband.

The two attacks apparently happened within hours of each other, police said, though it wasn’t immediately clear which was first.

Darren Mack was charged with murder in her killing and is considered a “person of interest” in the shooting at the courthouse, Reno Deputy Police Chief Jim Johns said Tuesday.

Darren Mack “had recent dealings with the judge and the family court section,” Johns said, but police “do not have enough information to say he is a suspect.”

Weller, a 53-year-old family court judge, was hospitalized in good condition Tuesday, and Johns said he was in good spirits. Weller’s assistant also had bullet fragments removed from her arm and hip and was released from a hospital, police spokesman Steve Frady said.

The courthouse shooting Monday morning led to a shutdown of a six-block area near downtown as SWAT teams searched parking garages, high-rise construction sites and a movie theater for the gunman. Flights were briefly suspended at Reno-Tahoe Airport and some planes were searched after a vehicle that looked like Mack’s was spotted, but Mack wasn’t found.

‘Hyper state of vigilance’
“The lead was strong enough that police responded with a large group of officers,” airport spokesman Brian Kulpin told The Associated Press. “The entire airport was searched and will continue to be searched. We’re in a hyper state of vigilance.”

According to Washoe County District Court records, Charla Mack, 39, filed for divorce on Feb. 7, 2005, and a mutual restraining order was signed in May 2005. A custody hearing was scheduled for this September before Weller.

Mack owns a Reno jewelry store and pawn shop within a few blocks from the courthouse. His photo, along with his wife and three children, appears on a Web site advertising the sale of diamonds and other jewelry. The children were not injured.

Darin Conforti, court administrator of Reno Justice Court, said that shooting was shocking but that the risk of an attack was not.

“We’re well aware this is the inherent risk of trying to solve conflicts,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t solve them peacefully and people take the law into their own hands.”