Violent crimes against children investigation turns deadly in Florida
Just before 6 am yesterday morning, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation that were serving a federal search warrant were met with gunfire through a closed door.
It is believed that the suspect, 55-year-old David Lee Huber saw the officers approaching through a Ring doorbell camera.
Two agents, Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger were shot and killed in the attack. Three other agents who have not been identified were injured. Of those three, one remains hospitalized and another did not require hospitalization. The final injured officer has been discharged from the hospital.
"FBI Miami conducts search warrants almost daily," George Piro, special agent in charge of the FBI's Miami Field Office said in a statement yesterday. "They are an essential and important part of what we do and are thoroughly researched and meticulously planned to take into account any threats or dangers. The vast majority of these warrants occur without incident and the investigation continues."
Alfin was 36-years-old and leaves behind a wife and child. He joined the FBI in 2009 and worked out of the Albany, New York office before moving to Miami in 2017.
During this time in New York, Alfin served as the lead investigator on a case that led to the takedown of the dark web child pornography site called Playpen. During the investigation, the FBI made the controversial decision to leave the website active for two weeks after seizing the servers and loading code that would trace and identify users.
In total, as a result of that decision, about 900 of the believed 100,000 users were identified and arrested.
“One legacy of the Playpen cases is a charge in judicial rules on search warrants,” Nicholas Weaver, a computer security expert at the University of California Berkeley said. “Another was nearly 300 children identified and rescued from abuse around the world. Daniel Alfin helped make that possible.”
“His work speaks for itself: You just read the court cases and transcripts and it breaks your heart,” Weaver said. “I can’t even hope to estimate the number of children Agent Alfin and Agent Schwartzenberger’s investigations have rescued from horrific circumstances. The loss of both is a tragedy.”
43-year-old Schwartzenberger leaves behind a husband and two children that had joined the FBI in 2005. She began her career at the Albuquerque, New Mexico office and was assigned to the Miami Field Office in 2010 where she worked with the Innocent Images National Initiative, an office that was established to specifically target those that exploited children online through a means of "sextortion."
Sextortion is defined as a scam through which a perpetrator exploits sexually explicit material from a victim and then demands a ransom in order to keep the material from being shared online.
Schwartzenberger would also share her information with students at the Rockway Middle School, where she was a member of their law studies magnet program for the last five years, in order to teach them about online safety, cyberbullying, and "the dangers of social media."
"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,'" a statement from Rockway read.
According to a public records search conducted by The Miami Herald, Huber had a "sparse" employment history and ran a number of computer consulting businesses, most of which were inactive a few years after being established. He also had a pilot's license, though it is not clear whether or not he ever worked as a pilot. The only previous legal involvements appear to be a divorce in 2016, traffic tickets late that same year, and an eviction from a Colorado address at an undisclosed date.
After firing at the officers, he barricaded himself inside the apartment and fatally shot himself.
The Miami Herald seems to be the only outlet that is questioning why the early morning raid was not accompanied with the customary presence of a heavily armed tactical unit that are commonplace when conducting operations of this sort. The absence of tactical officers was not addressed during Piro's prepared statement.
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