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When Federal Officers use Deadly Force


There have been over 150 fatalities at the hands of federal officers—DEA, FBI, US Marshals, or ATF—in the past five years.  Another 80 or so people were wounded. We know that these federal agencies are tasked with going after bad guys—but still—there are questions about the tactics they use and the results they get.

Reforms that Haven’t Made it to the Feds 

Across the country state and local law enforcement agencies have undergone some pretty big reforms in recent years. One thing that remains behind the curtain is the date surrounding use-of-force incidents.  There is literally no oversight examining federal data, making it all but impossible to figure out the who, what, why, and when of federal shootings. We do know that federal officers—and those working in tandem with them– are allowed to shoot at moving vehicles, and often shoot suspects within seconds of their encounters, things that are not permitted in most non-federal agencies.

Recent Reforms 

The Biden administration has recently seen to the first reforms these agencies have experienced in about 20 years. Those reforms include:

  • Requirements for officers to intervene if they observe excessive force in the field;
  • The use of body cameras;
  • Restrictions related to no-knock warrants.

Some Interesting Facts 

So who are these dangerous criminals that wind up on the other side of federal officers’ weapons, and what do we know about the agencies that pursue them?

  • 14 percent of those shot were wanted just for low-level charges, often parole violations.
  • Over 40 percent were being charged with violent crimes such as murder, rape, and armed robbery.
  • About four in ten individuals had warrants for felony drug possession or gun possession, and some of them fired on officers first.
  • About 10 percent were unintended victims who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • In addition to all of these victims, nearly 50 officers suffered gunshot wounds, six of which were fatal.
  • More than one officer fired a weapon in about half of the shootings.
  • Most fatalities occurred during operations involving US Marshals.
  • US Marshals are not expected to attempt to de-escalate situations prior to using lethal force.
  • No Marshal has experienced a prosecution following a shooting incident.
  • About 10 percent of shootings occurred during broad daylight in high-traffic areas.
  • One shooting occurred when a pall-bearer was shot and killed at a funeral.
  • While all law enforcement operations must conduct a risk assessment prior to attempting an arrest, the bar for federal agencies is much lower than for state and local agencies.

Limited Transparency 

Perhaps one of the biggest issues related to federal policing is the lack of data related to excessive use-of force. Although the last three or four presidents have signed laws and executive orders requiring as much, we’re still waiting to see the reports. At The Law Office of Julia Kefalinos, we know that the lack of transparency could mean these agencies are covering up civil rights violations.  If you’ve had a run-in with federal officers and believe this is the case, the experienced Miami criminal defense attorneys in our office can help.  Schedule a confidential consultation today.



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