Review of Shooting Incidents in the Department of Justice

E & I Report I-2004-010
September 2004



This review evaluated how the ATF, the DEA, the FBI, and the USMS reported, investigated, and reviewed shooting incidents involving Special Agents or Deputy Marshals. We assessed whether the components adhered to the Department's shooting incident review policy, Resolution 13, which requires "appropriate, consistent operational guidelines" to ensure objective, thorough reporting, investigation, and review of shooting incidents involving LEOs. We also assessed whether the components complied with their own internal shooting incident policies.


We reviewed shooting incidents involving Special Agents or Deputy Marshals that occurred during FY 2000 through FY 2003. We used two criteria to determine which components to include in the review:

The ATF, the DEA, the FBI, and the USMS met these criteria.27 The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is subject to Resolution 13, but because the BOP does not allow its personnel to leave correctional facilities with firearms except in special situations and does not routinely engage in enforcement activities, we did not include the BOP in this report.28

We reviewed all intentional and unintentional firearm discharges with and without injury or death resulting from the application of deadly force during enforcement operations. Not all of the 267 reported shooting incidents that occurred during FY 2000 through FY 2003 were reported, investigated, and reviewed by the components in the same way. The components' policies define deadly force as the use of any force that is likely to cause death or serious physical injury.29 We considered all firearm discharges occurring when a weapon was drawn to be instances of the use of deadly force. Accordingly, we analyzed operational firearm discharges regardless of whether death or injury resulted or whether the discharge was later determined to be intentional or unintentional. To ensure that we reviewed only cases that were comparable, we excluded:

Of the 267 shooting incidents, 114 fit our criteria. Eleven were still under investigation or review when we concluded our fieldwork on May 21, 2004, and were not included in our analysis. Our report, therefore, is based on 103 incidents.

In conducting our analyses, we distinguished between incidents and cases because some incidents involved more than one LEO. For example, in one incident, seven Special Agents discharged their weapons while trying to serve a warrant on an individual who was barricaded in a house and shooting at the Special Agents and local police officers. The ATF, the DEA, and the FBI do not distinguish between incidents and cases, and create one file for each shooting incident even if multiple LEOs discharged their weapons. In contrast, the USMS creates a separate case file for each Deputy Marshal who discharged a firearm during an incident. We use the term "incident" to describe one event, even if more than one LEO discharged a weapon. We use the term "case" to refer to the individual LEO who discharged a weapon. If multiple LEOs fired during the same incident, multiple cases resulted. After reviewing the components' files, we identified 124 cases within the 103 incidents that met our criteria (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Total Shooting Cases in the OIG's Review

In year 2000, there were 5 for the ATF, 16 for the DEA, 6 for the FBI, and 2 for the USMS. In year 2001, there were 9 for the ATF, 10 for the DEA, 16 for the FBI, and 8 for the USMS. In year 2002, there were 3 for the ATF, 11 for the DEA, 6 for the FBI, and 7 for the USMS. In year 2003, there were 6 for the ATF, 3 for the DEA, 11 for the FBI, and 5 for the USMS. The total for all years was 23 for the ATF, 40 for the DEA, 39 for the FBI, and 22 for the USMS.
Source: OIG analysis of components' shooting incident data.

The 124 cases we reviewed encompassed a variety of enforcement activities in each of the components, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Cases by Type of Activity and Component
Component Arrests: warrant/surveillance Stings: buy/bust or other Peace Officer Total Cases
ATF 19 1 3 23
DEA 16 19 5 40
FBI 28 6 5 39
USMS 19 0 3 22
TOTAL 82 26 16 124
Source: OIG analysis of components' shooting incident data.


Data Collection

Each component provided the number of shooting incidents that occurred during FY 2000 through FY 2003, the number of full-time LEOs, and all shooting investigative and review policies in effect during the period covered by the review. To obtain information on firearm discharges reported by the components, we collected data from the OIG's Investigations Data Management System (IDMS) database and from the CRD.


We conducted in-person interviews with shooting incident investigators and Review Board members from all four components. We also interviewed representatives from the CRD and firearms instructors from the ATF, DEA, FBI, and USMS training academies.

Site Visits

We visited the FLETC in Glynco, Georgia, and the DEA and FBI training academies in Quantico, Virginia, to determine how and to what extent components integrate lessons learned from shooting incidents into their training curricula.

Background Research

Our review of background research on the shooting incident review process included:

File Review

For each component, we reviewed shooting incident and case files involving a firearm discharge during an enforcement operation, recorded the relevant dates for the steps of the process from reporting through discipline referral, evaluated whether the file contained documentation that the component's shooting investigations policy had been followed, and determined if the actions taken were timely.

To assess timeliness, we compared the time taken by the components to complete each step to the components' regulations. To evaluate the timeliness of reports of shooting incidents to the OIG, we averaged the number of days it took for each component to report the incidents.

We did not reinvestigate any of the incidents we reviewed, and we did not reevaluate the decisions made by any of the Review Boards. However, we did compare and contrast the Review Boards' findings on the use of deadly force and recommendations for discipline.30


  1. The portion of the ATF responsible for enforcing federal laws related to firearms, explosives, and arsons was transferred from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Justice on January 24, 2003. Prior to this transfer, the ATF was not required to adhere to Resolution 13.

  2. The OIG also met these criteria, but did not have any shooting incidents during FY 2000 through FY 2003 and was not included in the review.

  3. The components' policies are based on the commentary to the Department's Policy Statement Use of Deadly Force, referred to as Resolution 14, approved by the Attorney General on October 17, 1995. The Department issued a revised deadly force policy on July 1, 2004. The new policy does not include a commentary.

  4. The OIG is conducting a series of reviews on the disciplinary processes of the Department's components. The USMS review, Report Number I-2001-011, was completed in September 2001, and the DEA review, Report Number I-2004-002, was completed in January 2004. The Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons' Disciplinary System (I-2004-010) was completed in September 2004, and reviews of the ATF and the FBI discipline processes are planned.