East Bay News

Suspect arrested in shooting of customs agent

Tuesday, February 07, 2012
Authorities search for evidence at Piedmont apartment Off-duty federal agent shot in Newark Off-duty federal agent shot in Newark

Tuesday night federal agents sifted through a garbage can searching for evidence. Others removed boxes from an apartment as the FBI takes the lead in the investigation of the shooting of a U.S. Immigration and Customs officer. It all began Tuesday morning when that federal officer was shot in front of his home in Newark.

After arresting Dennis Bagwell late Tuesday afternoon, federal agents immediately began scouring a Piedmont apartment building off of Piedmont Avenue. What still remains a mystery is why a fairly successful optometrist, who became an apartment property manager, would want to shoot a U.S. customs agent.

Federal agents from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Customs combed the Piedmont apartment building where 61-year-old Bagwell is the property manager. Newark police say he shot a Customs agent just before 6 a.m. Tuesday.

"It's unknown if the agent discharged a weapon. This was an off duty incident, not in his working capacity," Cmdr. Robert Douglas said.

Detectives believe Bagwell waited for his victim to walk out of his Newark home on Mayhews Landing Road. One of the bullets actually went though the next door neighbor's 4-Runner. Another neighbor woke up when she heard a loud noise outside.

"I stayed with him on the phone and during a few minutes of our phone call, I heard three gunshots and then immediately, two after," she recalled. "My husband told me to hang up the phone and call police. I dialed 911."

The person taken to the hospital is a 61-year-old U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer assigned to San Francisco International Airport.

"Within a couple of minutes, I went to a window and heard a woman kind of screaming saying, 'Oh no Robert, oh no,' and that was it," the neighbor recalled. The federal officer was hit at least once and taken to Eden Medical Center. He is expected to survive but the shooting has shaken people in the neighborhood.

"It's shocking because I've never had any violence around me in Newark my whole life, so I don't know. It's crazy," Newark neighbor Kenneth Hudson said.

"You know, I would never have guessed that he had a gun," Piedmont apartment resident Joseph Grassick said.

Residents in Piedmont say Bagwell took over as the property manager in October.

"Dennis was really helpful. Every time we had any kind of issue, you call him, you text him, he's on it and he'll help you," apartment resident Lindsay Grassick said.

Bagwell also had access to the entire 30-unit apartment, so federal agents scoured through the dumpsters, and the parking garage before taking away several boxes of evidence.

We do know that before Bagwell ended up as a property manager, he was an optometrist who taught students at Bay Area Optical Schools in Union City. For 35 years, he owned and operated a practice in Redwood City and managed two laboratories.

Police had specific information to go looking for Bagwell, which indicates they may know the exact motive. Police pulled his car over in Union City and arrested him late Tuesday afternoon. They say he has no prior criminal history.

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