Slain FBI agent Daniel Alfin helped topple one of the largest child pornography networks in the world in 2015.
(CN) — The FBI on Tuesday night mourned the shooting death of two South Florida agents, describing them as veterans of the bureau and key members of a division that tracks down sex offenders who prey on children.
FBI Special Agents Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger were executing a search warrant early Tuesday morning at a Sunrise, Florida, apartment, when a man in the residence opened fire, fatally wounding them.
Three other FBI agents were injured in the shooting at the Water Terrace apartment complex. Two of them suffered multiple gunshot wounds and were transferred to a local hospital, the FBI said during an evening press conference.
The confrontation shut down a section of the suburban community just east of the Everglades swamp preserve as a SWAT team swarmed the apartment complex before the Tuesday morning rush hour.
Agent Alfin was a 36-year-old father, who had worked for the FBI since 2009. He worked in the FBI’s Albany, New York office before transferring to Miami in 2017. FBI records show that he helped bring down Playpen, a child pornography website with tens of thousands of followers around the world.
“It’s the same with any criminal violation: As they get smarter, we adapt, we find them,” Alfin said in 2017. “Kids are being abused, and it’s our job to stop that.”
By mid-2017, the Playpen investigation had led to 350 U.S. arrests and the prosecution of 25 U.S. producers of child pornography, according to the FBI. The site operator, Steven W. Chase of Naples, Florida, was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Agents Alfin and Schwartzenberger both worked for the Crimes Against Children team, which investigates child pornography, child prostitution, abductions of young children and sex tourism that exploits underage youths.
Schwartzenberger, a 43-year-old mother of two, was a Colorado native who began her career with the FBI in 2005. She worked for the bureau in Albuquerque and then joined the Miami office in 2010, becoming an integral part of the sex crimes unit. She spent more than seven years working on cases involving crimes against children.
The FBI has not released the name of the shooter, who died during the confrontation.
George Piro, head of the FBI’s Miami office, said the bureau’s searches are “thoroughly researched and meticulously planned” to account for dangers at the warrant location.
“The vast majority of these warrants occur without incident,” Piro said. “The operation in Sunrise this morning ended tragically with the subject opening fire on the members of the search team.”
Piro said that working as an FBI field agent “requires self-sacrifice — it requires putting one’s self in harm’s way not once but again and again.”
“Dan and Laura left home this morning to carry out the mission that they signed up for and loved to do: keep the American people safe,” Piro said.
Piro declined to provide details of the moments leading up to the shooting and the type of gun used by the shooter.
The FBI Agents Association said Tuesday that the warrant was being carried out to seize evidence in a case over alleged possession of child pornography. The association said the “loss of these agents is devastating to the entire FBI community and to our country.”
In 1986, South Florida was the site of another shooting that claimed the lives of FBI agents. Agents Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove were killed and several other agents were wounded in a confrontation with a pair of robbery suspects in Dade County.
According to the FBI’s Wall of Honor records, the last FBI agent to have been fatally shot in the line of duty was Samuel Hicks. On November 19, 2008, Hicks was killed in Pennsylvania while executing an arrest warrant linked to the takedown of a drug trafficking organization.