Slain FBI Agents in Florida Dedicated Their Lives to Protecting Exploited Children and 'Exemplified Heroism'

Laura Schwartzenberger is one of two FBI agents killed while serving a warrant in child pornography case.
Laura Schwartzenberger is one of two FBI agents who lost their lives serving a warrant in child pornography case.CBS News

Two FBI agents were shot to death in Florida as they served a warrant in a child pornography case. The slain agents were praised for the work in protecting exploited children.

Two federal agents who were shot shot to death Tuesday in the line of duty had dedicated their lives to protecting exploited children and "exemplified heroism" in their careers, said FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger were killed while serving a warrant in a south Florida child pornography case, authorities said. Both had distinguished service records in bringing down purveyors of child pornography and sexual exploitation rings.

“Every day, FBI special agents put themselves in harm’s way to keep the American people safe. Special Agent Alfin and Special Agent Schwartzenberger exemplified heroism today in defense of their country. The FBI will always honor their ultimate sacrifice and will be forever grateful for their bravery,” Wray said in a statement.

Three other agents were wounded in a shootout that erupted when several law enforcement agencies descended on a Sunrise apartment to serve a search warrant in a child pornography probe. 

The gunman, who has not been identified, is believed to have ambushed the agents as he monitored them with a doorbell camera, the Miami Herald reported. He opened fire through an unopened door in his first-floor apartment, the paper said.

After barricading himself inside, the man was later found dead, apparently from a self-inflicted gun shot, according to local reports.

President Joe Biden offered condolences for the slain agents during a White House meeting. "They put their lives on the line and that's a hell of a price to pay," he said. "My heart aches for the families."

The attacks left the FBI reeling, and is believed to be one of deadliest events in the agency's history, according to the FBI website.

Schwartzenberger, 43, began her bureau career in December 2005 and had been assigned to the Miami field office since 2010, working with a squad of agents investigating violent crimes against children.

She also conducted seminars for middle school students about the dangers of online sexual predators and the consequences of cyberbulling. She is survived by a husband and two children, according to George Piro, who heads the Miami field office.

In 2015, she helped arrest and a Miami man who had coerced young boys into sending him sexually explicit videos and photos, according to the bureau. The man also had threatened to post the images on social media if the children didn't give him more.

During a 2018 interview with WPEC-TV, Schwartzenberger described the boys' shame. “It is very traumatizing for the victim,” she said. “Their reputation is on the line.”

Rockway Middle School, where Schwartzenberger trained students in online safety, praised her work in a statement released Tuesday.

“Laura taught our students each year about the dangers of social media and much more,” the statement read. “She would always say, ‘I feel that coming here and talking about the hard stuff means that I won’t see you guys on my end.’”

Alfin, 36, also investigated child exploitation cases and earlier served at FBI headquarters, handling major cases of violent crimes against children. He had a degree in information technology and attended the agency's specialized training in cybercrimes.

In 2015, Alfin helped bring down "Playpen," one of the world's largest child pornography websites, with more than 150,000 users. 

“We were only able to pull it off with a lot of support from our international partners and field offices,” Alfin said at the time.

The investigation led to the arrest and conviction of a Florida man who ran the site with input from hundreds of child pornographers, the FBI said.

“Members of his enterprise who were raping children, who were producing child pornography all around the world—those cases continue to be indicted and prosecuted,” Alfin said then. More than 350 U.S. residents were arrested in connection with the massive investigation, the agency reported.

"It's the same with any criminal violation," Alfin said about the case. "As they get smarter, we adapt, we find them. It's a cat-and-mouse game, except it's not a game. Kids are being abused, and it's our job to stop that."

Alfin is survived by his wife and their child. 

The FBI said in a statement that two of the wounded agents, each of shot multiple times, had been hospitalized in stable condition. The third victim did not require hospitalization, The New York Times reported.