From FBI Director Christopher Wray at the Memorial Service for Special Agent Laura Schwartzenberger, Miami Gardens, Florida.
Good afternoon. On behalf of the entire FBI, it’s an honor to be here today to remember Special Agent Laura Schwartzenberger.
There are no good words to make sense of a loss like this. No good words for a day like Tuesday, or like today. There is a heaviness in our hearts—a burden unlike any other—because there is nothing more devastating to the FBI Family than the loss of an agent in the line of duty.
It is the news we pray will never come—and when it does, every FBI employee feels it deep down in their souls, whether they had the privilege of knowing Laura or not. Because we all know the risks our agents take, every day, to uphold an oath taken long ago, knowing that life can change forever in a mere moment.
On Tuesday, we lost not one of our own, but two. Two warriors who took on one of the hardest jobs in the FBI, crimes against children. Two best friends who shared the same passion, the same determination, and—in spite of all they had witnessed in their extraordinary careers—the same sense of optimism and hope that comes from work that matters. Two of the very best the FBI had to offer.
It’s heartbreaking. There’s no other word for it. It’s heartbreaking for the law enforcement community, for the American people they served, and—most of all—it’s heartbreaking for Laura’s family.
But, looking around this stadium, at all the people who have come to honor Laura—some from every corner of the country—we see the warmth, the support, and the sheer strength of the greater law enforcement family when it’s needed most.
And I recognize that far too many of you have felt the pain personally, within your own police departments, when your own officers have been killed in the line of duty. So from the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of every member of the FBI Family, I say thank you to everyone who is here, and all who are watching, for paying tribute to Laura today—a true American hero. And for the unconditional support that so many of you continue to provide for Laura’s family.
Being an FBI special agent is one of the most coveted and prestigious jobs that one could ever dream of having. It demands the highest levels of academic fortitude, sound judgment, and—above all—bravery and integrity.
Just before new special agents walk across the graduation stage at the FBI Academy in Quantico, they swear an oath confirming who they want to be and the kind of life they want to lead—one of service over self. To protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution of the United States.
I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Laura the way many of you here did, but in learning about her life over the past few days, it’s clear to me that she honored that oath, well above and beyond the call of duty. She led a life of sheer determination, dedication, and courage. Of someone who really loved her work and the people she worked with. And of a woman who loved her family even more.
Laura joined the Bureau in 2005. After graduating from Quantico, she landed in Albuquerque—her first field office. Laura quickly made an impression. Her supervisors said she was exactly the kind of new agent you wanted. She volunteered for any assignment that came up and offered to help anyone who needed it.
In 2007, she applied and became the first-ever—and still the only ever—female FBI SWAT team member in Albuquerque. To qualify, among other things, all potential SWAT team members must do two pull-ups while wearing a 25-pound weighted vest. Laura did five.
But her athleticism and grit were only part of the reason Laura got picked. The SWAT team also had to consider her personality. Was this someone they could spend hours, days, or even weeks with, in extremely close contact, during a crisis? Could they count on her in the most dangerous situations with their lives? The answer was a resounding yes.
While in Albuquerque, Laura became pregnant with her first son, Gavin. She continued to work as hard as ever, but as one of her former colleagues said, it was wonderful to watch Laura become a mom. The ferocious go-getter softened but in the best way. And no matter what was going on in Laura’s life, she did what she set out to do: she made a positive difference.
In 2010, Laura transferred to Miami where she joined the Violent Crimes Against Children Squad. It was here, in Miami, that she found her true calling—keeping kids safe. Laura chose to be part of a team that spends their days in darkness, confronting the very worst parts of humanity. It’s a job with high stress, high emotional toll, and high burnout. But Laura never stopped.
She talked to anybody and everybody about protecting children from predators online. She gave presentations on sextortion and internet safety in middle school auditoriums, neighborhood backyards—even a living room packed with a girls’ softball team.
In one of her biggest cases, Laura helped put away an evil criminal who exploited hundreds of teenage boys by tricking them into sharing private images of themselves. Because of Laura’s work, that man was sent to prison for the rest of his life and will never harm another child.
Laura had such a profound impact on the parents of some of the victims that when they found out that Laura had been killed in the line of duty, they immediately sent their condolences to the Bureau. And they asked how they could help Laura’s two boys. That speaks volumes about what Laura meant to this community.
Laura was solid and dependable—the hallmarks of what makes a great special agent. She was like a mom to some of the younger agents. She exuded a quiet confidence, and she instilled that confidence in everyone who worked on her cases. And I know that Laura and Dan’s squad, Squad C-18, will make her proud in carrying on her cases with the same tenacity and care that she did, every day.
Laura and Dan were also on the Miami dive team together. She loved it—even when it meant searching for evidence with zero visibility in South Florida’s muckiest swamps and canals. I think it’s pretty safe to say, that’s not something a lot of us here would be signing up to do.
She was an athlete in body and mind. Obstacle course races, CrossFit sessions—Laura was always moving. But she was an athlete in spirit, too. She had a sharp mental focus, stamina, and sense of teamwork and camaraderie that allowed her to keep moving forward, case after case and victim after victim.
But as seriously as she took her work, friends and co-workers remark that Laura was just fun to be around. Her laugh was infectious. When you heard it—and you couldn’t mistake it for anyone else’s—you couldn’t help but join in, even if you had no idea what it was she was laughing about.
Laura was easygoing, and she brought to Miami a sort of New Mexico laid-back vibe. There was no empty small talk with Laura. She wasn’t afraid to open up, let folks in, and really get to know people.
She was humble. And for a person so accomplished, that’s pretty rare. She never talked about those many accomplishments, never bragged about them, never adorned her office with evidence of them.
For Laura, it was all about the work. And there was always more work to be done, always more children to save. But there was so much more to Laura than her work.
Her priority was her family—her husband Jason and their sons, Gavin and Damon, affectionately known as “Tank.” She shepherded them to lacrosse games, where you could see her running between fields, beaming with pride, hoping not to miss her boys in action.
She was a great photographer too. Camera in hand, she’d run up and down the sidelines capturing shots of the kids and sharing those pictures with other families on the team.
She knew the importance of family, and she understood the need to take advantage of every opportunity to find joy. Because the flip side of working the kinds of cases she did, all day, every day, is that you learn to find joy in the smallest things. You can create joy in everyone around you. And Laura knew how to do just that.
I understand that Laura was a woman of faith—a devout Catholic who attended Mary Help of Christians church. It was an important part of her life and part of who she was in everything she did.
No matter how hard Laura’s days were, no matter how difficult protecting children from evil became, Laura kept that faith. Just as she kept her faith in the rule of law, in justice, and in doing what was right. A call to service isn’t designed for comfort and convenience. True service is a test. It’s an act of faith. And Laura had faith. She had faith in people. She had faith in the work she was called to do. She nurtured that faith. She shared it. And she lived it, every day.
In the FBI Family, we talk about courage and bravery, and selflessness. We talk about the heroism of law enforcement. But heroism comes in many forms. There’s the heroism of those who rush headlong into danger without a second thought for their own well-being. Because every special agent recognizes that making the choice to be an agent might one day require the ultimate sacrifice for complete strangers.
But there’s also a quiet heroism that cannot be discounted. The heroism of the individual who simply does their job with dignity and dedication, with a devotion to service. Laura was both. She was brave in pursuit of criminals seeking to harm the most innocent and vulnerable among us, no matter how dangerous. And she relied on her heart and compassion in smaller moments when it was needed the most.
Back at FBI Headquarters and in every field office, there is a Wall of Honor, where the names of fallen agents are inscribed. And in time, we will add Laura’s name to that wall. And when we look up and see it, we’ll remember Laura, in ways big and small.
We’ll remember her love of life, and her bright smile that could light up a room and warm your heart. We’ll remember her work ethic, her unshakeable integrity, her confidence, her empathy, and her devotion to justice. And we’ll remember her as a dedicated agent, a committed public servant, and a courageous leader. Most importantly, we’ll remember how good it felt to call her a colleague and a friend.
I thought it would be fitting to close with a familiar prayer—one that may bring comfort on such a dark day.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
I know there is much sadness today. And that sadness will never fully disappear. But we can find joy knowing that Laura brought hope where there was only despair. We can find joy knowing that she brought light into some of the darkest places, and that she died as she lived—making a difference, serving her community, and keeping kids safe. We can find joy in her strength, her laughter, and her legacy. And in the fact that the FBI today is better and stronger because of what Laura gave to all of us.
Jason, Gavin, and Damon: We know you’ll remember her better than anyone. And you’ll miss her more than anyone. Thank you for sharing Laura with us for so many years. Please know that you will always be part of our FBI Family, that we’ll always honor her ultimate sacrifice and that we’ll always be here for you for anything you need.
So today, we remember selfless women and men, like Laura, like Dan. And we take inspiration from their example and the sacrifices they heroically made for all of us. We are saying goodbye to a beloved member of the FBI Family taken much too soon. But we are so fortunate that Laura chose us, and we will forever remember her as the shining light that she was.
May the love of friends give you comfort, and may God grant you peace. Thank you.
Governor Ron DeSantis directed the United States and the State of Florida flags flown at half-staff at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, at Parkland City Hall, and the State Capitol on Saturday.
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