2 FBI agents killed, others injured while serving warrant in South Florida child exploitation case
SUNRISE, Fla. - Two FBI agents were killed and three wounded Tuesday after a standoff with a suspect in South Florida that forced nearby residents to huddle inside their homes as shots rang out and SWAT teams stormed an apartment building.
The confrontation in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Sunrise marked one of the bloodiest days in FBI history in South Florida and among the deadliest nationally as well, according to the FBI website.
FBI Director Christopher Wray identified the two killed as Special Agent Daniel Alfin and Special Agent Laura Schwartzenberger, saying the two "exemplified heroism today in defense of their country." Both agents specialized in investigating crimes against children.
FBI Special Agents Laura Schwartzenberger and Daniel Alfin (Courtesy: FBI)
In a Tuesday afternoon briefing, an FBI spokesperson said Alfin left behind his wife and one child, while Schwartzenberger is survived by her husband and two children.
Two of the wounded agents were taken to hospitals to be treated and were in stable condition, Wray said, adding that the third injured agent did not require hospitalization.
FBI Miami Special Agent Michael D. Leverock said the suspect also died, but he did not say how or identify the person.
Aerial video from WSVN showed two bodies draped with American flags being brought into the Broward Medical Examiner’s office around 10 a.m. A procession of officers could also be seen saluting the fallen agents outside of the building.
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The shooting happened around 6 a.m. in a middle-class neighborhood of single-family homes, duplexes and apartment buildings located west of Fort Lauderdale, near the Everglades.
The gunfire erupted with about four shots — "Boom, boom, boom, boom!" said Julius McLymont, whose house borders the Water Terrace apartment complex where the suspect was barricaded.
At first, McLymont thought the gunfire was a car backfiring, then two minutes later he heard about five more shots. He went outside and looked over his fence as police cars and ambulances rushed in. Then he saw officers working on someone lying on the ground before they loaded the person into an ambulance.
A SWAT team appeared next, with officers donning riot gear. Then they went around the building, yelling, "Go, go, go!" McLymont said. He said he couldn’t see the apartment where the shooting happened from his location.
Hours later, Sunrise Police urged residents of Water Terrace to remain inside their homes while law enforcement blocked the entrances to their community.
The FBI agents had come to the apartment complex to serve a federal search warrant in connection with a case involving violent crimes against children, Leverock said.
Television video showed police motorcycles, with lights flashing, escorting a fire rescue truck that was bringing the body of one of the agents to the medical examiner’s office in nearby Dania Beach. Law enforcement officials from numerous agencies lined up to pay their respect as a flag-covered body was removed from the vehicle and taken inside.
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Alex Piquero, a University of Miami sociology professor who has specialized in criminology, said serving search warrants at a person's home is incredibly hazardous for law enforcement officers.
"Serving warrants, next to domestic dispute calls and high-speed chases, are among the most dangerous for law enforcement — they don’t know what awaits them on the inside," Piquero said.
There have been several other shootings throughout the FBI's history in which two agents have died, according to the bureau's Wall of Honor.
In South Florida, the infamous "Miami Shootout" in 1986 claimed the lives of Agents Ben Grogan and Jerry Dove in a gunbattle with two heavily armed robbery suspects who were also killed. Five other FBI agents were wounded in that shooting, which led the bureau to upgrade the weapons that agents carry.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.