A Piedmont man was charged today with premeditated attempted murder for allegedly shooting an off-duty federal agent in Newark on Tuesday, a crime that may have stemmed from an attraction to the man’s wife. Dennis Bagwell, 61, was also charged with assault with a firearm and appeared in Alameda County Superior Court this afternoon, according to the district attorney’s office.
According to police documents, Bagwell confronted the agent outside of his home on Mayhews Landing Road and Bettencourt Street as he was leaving for work shortly before 6 a.m. Tuesday. The two men had met through the agent’s wife, who was a student of Bagwell’s at the Bay Area Optical School in Union City several months ago. The school’s owner and director, Daniel Ross, identified the victim as Robert Suplik, 61, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent stationed at San Francisco International Airport.
Police said that an officer accompanying Suplik in the ambulance away from the scene asked if Suplik knew who had shot him, and he told the officer “Dennis” several times, and also mentioned Bay Area Optical School. Police said that after telling Suplik’s wife that her husband had mentioned “Dennis,” she implicated Bagwell in the shooting, telling investigators that the two had an uneasy relationship, and that Bagwell had attempted to initiate a more intimate relationship with her, but she turned him down. Police said that she maintained a casual relationship with Bagwell, and spoke to him over the phone and through text messages occasionally, but that Bagwell sometimes behaved erratically, and had recently shown up at their home hiding in the bushes.
After that, Suplik had confronted Bagwell about his behavior and told him to leave his wife alone. Bagwell last communicated with the family on Friday, police said. Ross said that he saw Bagwell at the school on Monday and that Bagwell did not seem distressed or upset, but perfectly normal. Ross said that he and Bagwell have worked together for seven years and that there are only two teachers at the small school who teach classes of between eight and 14 students, so the teachers got to know their students well. He said that he had never seen any indication that Bagwell had any inclinations toward Suplik’s wife that were beyond simple friendship, and described Bagwell as a friend of the family. Bagwell was even teaching Suplik’s teenage daughter how to drive, Ross said.
After the shooting, Suplik was taken to Eden Medical Center. While police have not released Suplik’s name, police said today that the victim in the shooting remains in very serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Police said witnesses placed Bagwell at Bay Area Optical School at 7 a.m., about an hour after the shooting. Police took Bagwell into custody during a traffic stop later that morning, and searched Bagwell’s home and vehicles as well as the school.
Police said they found guns, ammunition and pictures of Suplik’s wife, and that his phone had significant calls and texts between Bagwell and Suplik’s wife until Friday, the day she said her husband confronted Bagwell. Bagwell’s daughter told police that she believed her father was obsessed with Suplik’s wife, he had fantasized and fabricated an imaginary relationship with her and was trying to drive a wedge between her and her husband, according to court documents. But Ross said he saw Bagwell with the family and is struggling to understand the motivations behind the crime.
He said that he grew quite close with Bagwell in the time the two taught together, and that he knew Suplik casually as well. He said he was shocked to find out what had happened. “It just doesn’t hold true with knowing him and the type of personality he is. It’s shocking, like losing a family member because we had more than a working relationship. He was over at my house a lot,” Ross said. “Dennis was the type of person that if someone needed something done he would help them out,” Ross said. He said that he saw Bagwell the day before the shooting and that he was behaving normally, not stressed or upset. He said that Bagwell doesn’t drink, and to his knowledge neither did Suplik. “I like both of the guys, it’s like a death in the family now,” Ross said. “I’m upset because I lost a friend, and because there’s a federal officer involved, I may never see my friend again,” he said.
Bagwell is scheduled to be arraigned in Fremont on Friday at 9 a.m.
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