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On Tuesday, two FBI agents, Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger, were shot and killed in the line of duty.

Three other agents were wounded during this same incident. They were shot while attempting to serve an arrest warrant in a violent crimes against children investigation at 6 a.m.

I can only imagine how their day began. They probably went to bed early the night before, knowing they would have to get up when it was still dark in order to get ready for the arrest. I’m sure they tried to be quiet and not wake their spouse and kids when they got up early in order to get to an assembly area where they would meet up with other members of the arrest team.

They may have brought some coffee with them, or a forward-thinking supervisor would have arranged to have coffee (and maybe doughnuts) at the assembly area as agents got together and were briefed by the case agent or supervisor regarding the arrest plan.

It would be decided how they would announce their presence and gain entry to a residence that was likely locked. I’m sure they would have had a sledgehammer and a “Chicago Bar,” which is a combination pickax and crowbar. Both the sledgehammer and the Chicago Bar would likely be used.

During the pre-arrest briefing, they would review firearm safety, ensure everyone was wearing a bullet-proof vest and that all present would know the location of the closest hospital. Someone would be assigned to maintain an arrest log detailing the time of entry, time of arrest, the time the arrestee’s rights were read to them, etc. No one wants this job, because everyone wants to be the first one in the building. They have trained for 16 weeks, practiced arrest scenarios many dozens of times and all want to be involved.

There would be some attempts at humor, but mostly everyone would be quiet and focused. Some agents would be assigned to go the back of the residence. Since the arrest team chose the crack of dawn to execute the warrant, they may have had intelligence that the subject was armed and dangerous. Whatever the intelligence was, few arrests go exactly as planned. This one obviously didn’t.

So later that morning, FBI officials and local law enforcement were told of the catastrophic results. Three people dead, two agents and the subject. As FBI Director Chris Wray wrote, “This morning, special agents Alfin and Schwartzenberger left home to carry out the mission they signed up for — to keep the American people safe.”

That evening would be the first evening of many that a chair remains empty at their dinner tables. I’m sure that agents were dispatched immediately to tell the families of the deceased before they found out from the media.

The FBI Agents Association and the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI have a procedure to follow in order to quickly assist the families of the fallen. Colleagues and neighbors will soon begin sending food and flowers. The family will be overrun with concerned citizens trying to help in any way they can. The funerals will be heartbreaking and well-attended despite the pandemic.

In a few months, the phone calls and cards will slow down, and after a while, they will trickle to once-a-year reminders every Feb. 2, and on wedding anniversaries ... and birthdays ... and Christmas. Videos will be watched and re-watched, and Laura and Daniel will remain forever young while their families grow older.

During the time I was in the FBI, we shared a chaplain with the Chicago Police Department. This chaplain was a Catholic priest named Tom Nagle. I attended a law-enforcement conference in which he was one of the guest speakers. Father Nagle said that despite the many hardships involved with being in law enforcement, we in the audience were lucky. He explained that was because all of us had a job in which we performed a sacred duty each day we went to work. Father Nagle went on to say that we worked for justice and that working for justice is sacred.

Maybe this thought will be of some comfort to the families of Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger. Maybe.

Peter Buckley of St. Joseph is a retired special agent with the FBI and a former chief deputy with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

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