LOS ANGELES » An immigration agent was justified in fatally shooting a colleague who opened fire on their boss in a federal office building last year, the FBI has determined.
The wild double-shooting at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Long Beach office occurred after Kevin Kozak, the second-in-command for the agency’s Los Angeles region, turned down a transfer request by Ezequiel Garcia, who then shot him six times. Another agent rushed into the room and killed Garcia. Kozak survived.
The FBI spent about a year investigating and determined the fatal shooting was justified, bureau spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told The Associated Press. She declined to provide any details about what the investigation found leading up to Garcia’s attack or the basis for the overall finding, saying they would be kept confidential because no criminal charges are planned.
Anne Weismann, chief counsel of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the public is entitled to more information because of the location of the shooting and the participants.
“This wasn’t a killing in a private space or a building,” she said. “It was a killing of a federal agent by another agent in a federal building. The public interest in it is even greater.”
Eimiller noted the FBI forwarded its findings to federal prosecutors who decided against bringing charges.
“In the absence of a grand jury indictment, any details of an investigation do not become public,” she said.
Ginger McCall, director of the open government project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the FBI must disclose the reason why it hasn’t made the ICE shooting report public. Citing the lack of a grand jury indictment isn’t enough, she said.
“They have to justify in detail or they are not in compliance with the law,” McCall said. “They can redact pieces, but they have to give as much as they can.”
The Associated Press renewed its public records request for the report on the investigation findings. The initial request was denied last year because the investigation was ongoing.
“The public has a right to know about the actions of federal agents within a federal building,” said AP associate general counsel Karen Kaiser. “There is significant public interest in understanding the actions of these agents, as well as the agency’s reasons for its final determination.”
The shootings occurred Feb. 16, 2012, on the seventh floor of the Glenn M. Anderson Federal Building in downtown Long Beach. ICE officials have said Garcia shot Kozak multiple times following a discussion about Garcia’s job performance. Another agent who attended the meeting had just left and rushed back after hearing gunshots.
After what ICE officials described as an intense struggle to try and disarm Garcia, the other agent drew his weapon and shot him. That agent’s name has not been disclosed by ICE, but a federal official familiar with the investigation identified him as Perry Woo. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Kozak survived wounds to the hand, knee and torso. Woo was not injured. Both still work for ICE.
While ICE has not disclosed a motive for Garcia’s attack on Kozak, the official who spoke anonymously has told AP that Kozak denied Garcia’s request for an internal transfer.
Garcia joined the former Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1988 and was named criminal investigator three years later. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, INS, which was part of the Justice Department, was combined with the Treasury Department’s Customs Service to form ICE and was placed in the Department of Homeland Security.
There was friction from the start, as the differing cultures and protocols for Customs and the INS were melded. Some employees continued identifying closely with their old agency and resented when their supervisors came from the other.
Kozak came up through Customs and, as second-in-command for the Los Angeles region, had authority over Garcia, who in 2004 was promoted to ICE supervisor and oversaw a documents and benefits fraud task force.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said its Office of Professional Responsibility is conducting its own review and the FBI findings will “figure prominently” in the assessment.
Neither Kozak nor Woo were available for comment because of the ongoing review.