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Christopher Wray: ‘Days like this are among the darkest days we face in the FBI’

By Allan Lengel

FBI Christopher said “we’re all heartbroken” over Tuesday’s deaths of two FBI agents and the wounding of three others. The shootings happened while serving a search warrant in a child pornography cases in Sunrise, Fla., a suburb of Ft. Lauderdale.

Christopher Wray

“Days like this are among the darkest days we face in the FBI,” Wray said in a statement. “We’ve lost two of our very own. We’re all heartbroken – particularly our colleagues in Miami who are reeling from this unthinkable loss.

The suspected reportedly killed himself.

The FBI Agents Association President Brian O’Hare also issued a statement:

“These Agents were working to protect the most vulnerable in our society. FBIAA stands with the Agents’ families and pledges our support to them during this difficult time,” O’Hare said. “FBI Special Agents risk their lives to protect our country, and the loss of these Agents is devastating to the entire FBI community and to our country. FBIAA hopes that all Americans will join us in our efforts to support these FBI families in this time of tragedy.”

Read Christopher Wray’s full statement below:

It’s with a very heavy heart that I’m writing to tell you that this morning, Special Agent Daniel Alfin and Special Agent Laura Schwartzenberger of the Miami Division were shot and killed in the line of duty. They were executing a federal court-ordered search warrant in a violent crimes against children investigation in Sunrise, Florida. Three other agents were shot and wounded, two of whom suffered injuries requiring hospital care, but both are now in stable condition. The third injured agent did not require hospitalization. The shooter is deceased.

Days like this are among the darkest days we face in the FBI. We’ve lost two of our very own. We’re all heartbroken – particularly our colleagues in Miami who are reeling from this unthinkable loss. All of us across the FBI, in offices and divisions who worked with the special agents, and colleagues who have never had the chance to meet them, are all trying to also come to terms with this tragic loss. And yet, our grief cannot compare to that of the families of these two special agents. Today, they’ve lost the people who meant the very most to them.

As many of you have heard me say, it takes an incredibly special person to answer the call and do the heroic work of an FBI special agent.To sacrifice self for service. This morning, Special Agent Alfin and Special Agent Schwartzenberger left home to carry out the mission they signed up for – to keep the American people safe. It will take us a long time to process the grief that we all feel for the loss of our own. But we’ll be forever grateful for their commitment and their dedication – for their last full measure of devotion to the people they served and defended. We will always honor their ultimate sacrifice. And we’ll continue to stand by our FBI Family, and the families of these special agents, in the days to come, bringing every resource we can to get through this together.

We’ll continue to share more as we’re able to.

Five FBI Agents Shot, Two Fatally, While Serving Search Warrant at Florida Home

By Steve Neavling

Five FBI agents were shot and two were killed while serving a search warrant at a home in Sunrise, Fla., a suburb of Ft. Lauderdale, on Tuesday morning, The Miami Herald reports

The suspected gunman barricaded himself in the home before fatally shooting himself. 

The suspect was accused of possessing child pornography.

The shooting broke out around 6 a.m., when FBI agents with the child-porn squad arrive at the home to execute the search warrant.  

“Two wounded agents were transported to hospital and are in stable condition,” the FBI said in a statement, without addressing the condition of the third agent.

Details remained murky at 10:30 a.m.

Secret Service Honors Its First Black Secret Service Agent Charles L. Gittens on 65th Anniversary

Charles L. Gittens, first black special agent for the Secret Service.

By Steve Neavling

Monday marked the 65th anniversary of Charles L. Gittens becoming the first black special agent for the Secret Service. 

“February 1 carries special meaning to the men and women of the United States Secret Service,” the agency wrote in a tribute to Gittens.

Gittens spent 23 years rising through the ranks of the Secret Service, first serving in Charlotte, N.C., before moving on to posts in New York City, San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Washington D.C. Field Office, where he became special agent in charge in 1971.

Gittens continued to break racial barriers. In 1977, Gittens became the first African American to serve as the agency’s deputy assistant director of the Office of Inspection, a position he held until he retired in 1979. 

During his career, he protected Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B .Johnson, in addition to Vice President Hubert Humphrey. He also participated in notable undercover investigations and was a member of “The Special Detail,” which was tasked with curtailing counterfeiting actives in the U.S. and abroad. 

“Looking back, when I enlisted in the Service, I knew everybody,” Gittens later said. “Knew every agent personally. It is a lot different now. We have steadily expanded, both in size itself or in the area of our responsibility. But the Service is a lot like home, even now. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Gittens died on July 27, 2011 at the age of 82. 

At the time of his death, then-Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said, “The passing of Deputy Assistant Director Gittens represents a sad day for the Secret Service family. Mr. Gittens’ legacy of accomplishments will live on with all those who knew him, as well as all of us who benefitted from the path he created and standards he set as the first African American agent in the Secret Service. His contributions to this agency and this country cannot be overstated.” 

Donald M. Voiret Named Special Agent in Charge of FBI’s Seattle Field Office

FBI Special Agent in Charge Donald Voiret.

By Steve Neavling

Donald M. Voiret, who most recently was serving as the FBI’s attaché to London, has been named special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle Field Office. 

Voiret became an FBI special agent in 2002, primarily working counterterrorism cases at the Providence Resident Agency in Rhode Island, under the Boston Field Office. 

In 2007, Voiret began serving as supervisory special agent at the Counterterrorism Division at FBI headquarters. 

Voiret transferred to the Washington Field Office in 2010, serving as a supervisor of the Extraterritorial Counterterrorism Squad.

In 2013, Voiret was promoted to assistant inspector in the Inspection Division, which conducts internal investigations and special inquiries and reviews operational performance and use of enforcement authorities across all investigative programs.

In 2015, Voiret was promoted to assistant special agent in charge of the Salt Lake City Field Office, where he oversaw the cyber, counterintelligence, and intelligence programs covering Utah, Idaho, and Montana.

In 2017, Voiret became inspector in the Inspection Division. A year later he was named legal attaché in the London office. 

Before joining the FBI, Voiret worked as a law enforcement officer for 16 years in Florida. He graduated from Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Paul Abbate Takes Over #2 Spot at FBI


By Allan Lengel

Paul M. Abbate has been named deputy director of the FBI — the #2 spot in the agency, just under Director Christopher Wray.

Paul Abbate

As deputy director, Abbate will oversees all FBI domestic and international investigative and intelligence activities. He was promoted from the job of associate deputy director at headquarters.

Abbate joined the FBI in 1996 and was first assigned to the Criminal Division in the New York Field Office. He was also a member of the SWAT team.

In 2003, he was promoted to supervisory special agent and transferred to the Iraq Unit of the Counterterrorism Division at FBI Headquarters.  He was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and served as the senior FBI liaison officer to the Department of Defense.

In 2006, he moved to the Newark Field Office, where he served on the Joint Terrorism Task Force. In 2008, he deployed to Afghanistan as the FBI’s deputy on-scene commander where he led FBI counterterrorism operations. 

He returned to the Counterterrorism Division in 2009 as an assistant section chief, providing oversight of U.S.-based international terrorism investigations. The next year, he moved to the Los Angeles Field Office as the assistant special agent in charge of counterterrorism matters.

After several more moves, in 2013, he took over the Detroit FBI Office. A couple years later, he was promoted to head up the Washington Field Office. Near the end of 2016, he was appointed as the executive assistant director for the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch at FBI Headquarters.

Two years later, he was named the FBI associate deputy director.

He replaces David Bowdich. 

Time to Revive Long-Delayed Plan to Build New FBI Headquarters, WP Argues

FBI headquarters, via FBI

By Steve Neavling

The long-planned construction of a new FBI headquarters languished under President Trump. 

Now it’s time to revive the plan “now that facts are back in fashion,” The Washington Post argues in an editorial. 

The Post writes:

Mr. Trump’s meddling derailed an important project that would have saved money and enhanced the security of thousands of FBI employees. Now that he’s gone, the Biden administration should revive the FBI’s relocation to a nearby suburban Virginia or Maryland site.

“The move’s rationale hasn’t changed in the decade since the federal government concluded that the J. Edgar Hoover Building, completed in 1975, had become obsolete to the FBI’s needs. Today, thousands of bureau employees, for whom there is no space at headquarters, are scattered in office buildings around the D.C. region, at significant cost to taxpayers. The danger to pedestrians posed by falling chunks of concrete is such that netting has been installed on the building’s east facade.

The Post said relocation is necessary because the current headquarters is too small to be rebuilt, suggesting a “a nearby suburban campus — of the sort that has worked well for the CIA, in Virginia, and the National Security Agency, in Maryland — would enable the bureau to consolidate headquarters staff in one location, at a savings of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“A new suburban headquarters would also allow for the construction of other features long deemed priorities, including a separate facility for inspecting trucks and a detached utility plant.”

Read the full editorial here.

TSA Workers Authorized to Mandate Masks at Checkpoints

By Steve Neavling

TSA workers, who have been hammered by the coronavirus, can finally require travelers to wear masks at checkpoints and “throughout the commercial and public transportation system.”

Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske signed the mandate Sunday, offering long-needed protection for TSA employees and travelers. The mandate goes into effect on Feb. 2 and remains active until May 11.

“The purpose of this Executive Order is to save lives and allow all Americans, including the millions of people employed in the transportation industry, to travel and work safely,” Pekoske’s declaration states. “I specifically direct the Transportation Security Administration to use its authority to accept the services of, provide services to, or otherwise cooperate with other federal agencies, including through the implementation of countermeasures with appropriate departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the United States in order to address a threat to transportation, recognizing that such threat may involve passenger and employee safety.”

Since the pandemic began in the U.S. in March, COVID-19 has infected 6,304 TSA employees and killed 14.

Weekend Series on Crime History: The Gambino Crime Family