When an FBI agent is killed: The tragic loss of true heroes

When an FBI agent is killed: The tragic loss of true heroes
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Because our world is polluted with so many who do evil things, we call upon a few among us to walk ahead of the rest — not simply to confront evil but to seek it out, meet it and, in justice, cut it away. Not everyone can do this but, thankfully, there are some who can.

Evil never wins for long but its darkness erupts at times and exacts a terrible cost upon those who are willing to offer themselves in place of the masses. Thus, as the body of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick lay in honor this week in the Capitol he defended from violent criminals, two FBI agents were murdered by a wretched man whom they were trying to safely remove from society and away from our children.

When an FBI agent is killed it is no sadder than the killing of a police officer or member of the military as they carry out their honorable duty. But, for better or worse, the FBI has a cachet in this country that elevates the news of FBI deaths to national status. Presidents and other leaders make appropriate remarks in the moment; news coverage is extensive. And so, the deaths of FBI Special Agents Laura Schwartzenberger and Daniel Alfin provide an opportunity for needed attention and perspective. 


When an FBI agent is killed it is a higher-profile reflection of the ultimate sacrifices made by hundreds of other public servants in any given year. Like so many others, Special Agents Schwartzenberger and Alfin leave behind a spouse and young children now deprived of a mother and a father. The willingness to put one’s life in jeopardy in order to protect others is not an isolated decision. The devastated families left behind shared in that virtuous commitment as well.

When an FBI agent is killed it makes those who cynically choose to disparage the law enforcement profession as a monolithic oppressor seem small in their shrill, irrational insistence. The discouraging conduct of a few bad actors in law enforcement is dwarfed by the hundreds of thousands who set out each day, knowing that they could be killed and, yet, still go. That’s the dominant character of policing. 

When an FBI agent is killed it reorients the word “hero.” People who play sports well for a lot of money are not “heroes” and we shouldn’t carelessly refer to them that way as we often do. Heroism requires a personal, painful cost. It demands a difficult giving of self for the good of another. Jackie Robinson was heroic not because he was good at baseball; his heroism, like that of so many others, was found in the will to sacrifice for the good of others and, at times, in the brutal reality of that sacrifice.

When an FBI agent is killed it invites sober reflection on the truly evil elements among us and helps shake the reverie of preoccupation with political dramas important only to the powerful and wealthy and their allies. Below the elites and their protected affluence, America is in crisis with domestic violence, opioid abuse and urban shootings raging among the less fortunate.  

Try to imagine a greater evil than what some men do to children. In truth, if you are a normal person, you can’t imagine it. The term “child pornography” is too anodyne to capture the horrors of what is taking place in our midst on a scale that is only getting worse. Pornography in all its forms is fueling incredible violence, mostly against women and children, driving human trafficking and ruining lives in its miserable wake.  


While Big Tech tries to figure out what imagined evil needs to be censored in their privileged world, law enforcement will engage where true, tangible, devastating malevolence actually persists and preys upon the rest of us.       

The other morning, Special Agents Schwartzenberger and Alfin and their companions carried the noble mantle of all those willing to meet evil with their own lives as they approached the front door of a dismal cog in the lowest realm of depravity that can be found. They, like many others each day, didn’t shy away from what must be done. It isn’t scorn that this profession deserves; it is gratitude.

When an FBI agent is killed, as these two special agents were this week, all of us who share or who have shared in their mission of justice feel their loss in a deeply personal way. Our hearts go out to their families, and we pray for God’s consolation at this moment of immutable pain. But this we know and draw comfort from: When an FBI agent, or police officer, or warrior is killed confronting evil on our behalf, it is never in vain. It is always heroic. It is for our good that they walk ahead of us.

Kevin R. Brock, former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI, was an FBI special agent for 24 years and principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). He independently consults with private companies and public-safety agencies on strategic mission technologies.