2 FBI Agents, Detective Killed in D.C. Shooting
Two FBI agents and a District of Columbia police detective were shot and killed Tuesday afternoon as gunfire erupted in the squad room of an elite homicide unit at Washington’s downtown police headquarters.
A fourth person, believed to be the gunman, was also found dead at the scene, officials said.
Officials would not assign a motive to the shootings.
Washington Police Chief Fred Thomas said that the gunman, who had a semiautomatic rifle, and two other people were being interviewed by members of the squad. He said that the three were “either witnesses or suspects” in cases but declined to give their identities or further details.
One knowledgeable source said that the dead gunman apparently was a suspect who was questioned a week ago by homicide detectives in a recent triple slaying in Washington.
Of the other two being interviewed by the police team, one was wounded and the other was unharmed but in custody. Another FBI agent in the room at the time, John David Kuchta, had surgery for leg and chest wounds suffered in the shootout.
Law enforcement sources took pains to deny an early report that the gunman was a former member of the Police Department.
Neither was it clear how the gunman died, whether he shot himself or was shot by others. “There were a lot of guns in that squad room,” one official said.
The shootings broke out around 3:30 p.m. in a third-floor office that served as the meeting place for a crack group of detectives known as the “cold case” squad, so named because they investigate the most difficult unsolved murder cases--many so old that they are considered “cold,” officials said.
The FBI agents were participants in the “cold case” task force, according to Susan Lloyd, a bureau spokeswoman.
Shortly after the shootings broke out, police SWAT team members arrived and sealed off the floors above and below the third floor and, after a room-by-room search, made contact with the gunman.
Less than half an hour later, Thomas said, SWAT team members forced their way into the squad room and found the two FBI agents, one male and one female, as well as the D.C. policeman, mortally wounded. The three were later pronounced dead.
Within minutes of the shootings, emergency medical workers descended on the massive, five-story granite building five blocks from the Capitol.
National Park Service police helicopters ferried shooting victims to area hospitals.
City officials said that there was no effective security in the police headquarters building, which also houses city offices where Washingtonians go to obtain driver’s licenses, automobile license plates and birth certificates.
Observers said that the building’s lobby is staffed by uniformed but unarmed personnel and does not have metal detectors.
The head of the District of Columbia police union complained Tuesday night about the lack of security. “They talk about budget cuts but they’ve got no metal detectors down here, no security,” said J.C. Stamps, president of the Fraternal Order of Police.
“We need more protection just like anyone else and they should see that now.”
Although details of the shootings were hard to come by late Tuesday, there was no dearth of unofficial reports. At the time of the incident, police officials were conducting a press conference down the hall and within minutes a gaggle of reporters and camera people converged on the scene, adding to the chaos.
Some of the reporters later said outside police headquarters that SWAT team members had fired tear gas before entering the squad room where the shootings occurred.
By early evening, as darkness settled over the nation’s capital, a lone Washington police officer emerged from the building and wordlessly lowered the U.S. and District of Columbia flags to half staff on the flagpole in front of the building.
The slain FBI agents were identified as Martha Dixon Martinez, 35, a seven-year veteran, and Michael J. Miller, 36, an eight-year veteran.
The deaths of two agents were the worst loss of life in a single occurrence for the FBI since a shootout in Miami in April, 1986. In that case, agents were chasing two bank robbery suspects who opened fire, killing two agents as they were stepping out of their own car.
In all, more than 40 agents have been killed in the bureau’s 86-year history. Although no FBI agents died, the government’s initial raid on the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Tex., in February, 1993, resulted in the deaths of four agents assigned to the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The dead District police officer was identified as Detective Sgt. Hank Daly, 51, a 28-year veteran. A Washington Hospital Center official said that Daly had suffered two gunshot wounds, in the head and neck, and was dead when he arrived at the hospital.
Daly was supervisor of the “cold case” squad, officials said.
“He was an outstanding police officer,” former D.C. Police Chief Isaac Fulwood said on local television. “He really understood homicides. He had an outstanding ability to interview. He got along well with people. . . . He will be sorely missed.”
Fulwood said that Daly’s name was “one of first to come up” when the “cold case” unit was created several years ago.
“The police officers didn’t have a chance,” he added. “There’s nothing like when a police officer gets killed. it just devastates a department.”
Times staff writers Ronald J. Ostrow and Aaron Nathans contributed to this story.