SUNRISE, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — Two FBI agents were fatally shot and three wounded while trying to serve a search warrant in Florida on Tuesday in a child pornography case, prompting a SWAT team to storm an apartment building where the suspect was holed up as neighbors huddled inside their homes. The suspect is also dead.
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.
Special Agents Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger were fatally shot Tuesday while serving a search warrant in a crimes against children case in Sunrise, Florida, FBI Director Christopher Wray said.
Three other agents were shot, two of which were hospitalized but are now in stable condition. The third agent didn’t require hospitalization, Wray said.
“Special Agent Alfin and Special Agent Schwartzenberger exemplified heroism today in defense of their country,” Wray wrote in a statement. “The FBI will always honor their ultimate sacrifice and will be forever grateful for their bravery.”
Schwartzenberger, 43, had been an agent with the FBI since December 2005 and worked in the Miami field office on a squad of agents handling violent crimes against children, according to court records. Her work primarily focused on tracking offenders who sexually exploit children online and investigating other crimes against children.
Alfin, 36, who also investigated child exploitation cases, had previously worked at FBI headquarters handling major cases involving violent crimes against children, according to court records. He had a degree in information technology and went through the FBI’s specialized training programs for cybercrimes. He was involved in a major child exploitation investigation dubbed Playpen that resulted in arrests around the world.
The shooting happened around 6 a.m. in a middle-class neighborhood of single family homes, duplexes and apartment buildings. Hours later, Sunrise police urged residents of Water Terrace to remain inside their homes while law enforcement blocked the entrances to their community.
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 allegedly 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.
Multiple law enforcement agencies swarmed near the scene of the shooting, according to video from NewsNation affiliate WFLA. The Sunrise Police Department tweeted about the heavy police presence, noting that several roads were closed in the area.
After the shootings Tuesday, police motorcycles with their lights flashing escorted a fire rescue truck as it brought 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 respects as a flag-covered body was removed from the vehicle and taken inside.
“In accordance with FBI policy, the shooting incident is under investigation by the FBI’s Inspection Division,” the FBI told NewsNation. “The review process is thorough and objective and is conducted as expeditiously as possible under the circumstances.”
The FBI said no further information will be released at this time.
“Our hearts are filled with concern and grief about the FBI agents who lost their lives or were wounded in the line of duty today in south Florida,” The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida said in a statement. “All of us in local, state, and federal law enforcement recognize and honor the daily risk taken by the brave women and men who dedicate themselves to keeping the public safe. This tragic incident is especially heart-wrenching as it affects our U.S. Department of Justice family here in Florida. Our thoughts and prayers are with the agents, their loved ones, and their colleagues on this most difficult day.”
President Joe Biden offered his condolences during an immigration event at the White House.
“They put their lives on the line and that’s a hell of a price to pay,” he said of the agents. “My heart aches for the families.”
Piro said the suspect would not be identified until his family has been notified. Based on a preliminary investigation, federal officials believe he fatally shot himself, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the matter. The person cautioned that an official cause of death has not yet been determined and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
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 and NewsNation affiliate WFLA contributed to this report.