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Honoring the Fallen

Ceremony marks 20-year anniversary of fatal attack on two FBI agents and a police sergeant.

Honoring the Fallen
20 Years Since Shooting Killed Two Agents, Police Sergeant

11/21/14

Two decades ago, on November 22, 1994, a lone gunman entered the headquarters building of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in Washington, D.C. and opened fire in a squad room, killing a police sergeant and two FBI agents. For those close to the fallen, who gathered today for a memorial service marking 20 years since the tragic event, it’s as if it happened yesterday.

“Twenty years have passed, but our hearts are still heavy,” said former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, who headed the Bureau in 1994. “Our hearts and memories still feel the pain of that day. It was a day that we will never forget and will always honor.”

 

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‘That Fateful Day’

November 22, 1994 started like any other day at the District of Columbia Municipal Building, where FBI Agent John Kuchta worked on a homicide cold case squad with other agents and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) detectives. But that afternoon, everything changed when Benny Lee Lawson entered the building and opened fire. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t recall what happened,” said Kuchta, who was wounded in the shooting. “Something like that doesn’t leave you.”

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Special Agents Michael J. Miller and Martha Dixon-Martinez, of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and MPD Sgt. Joseph “Hank” Daly were fatally wounded in the attack. Another FBI agent, John Kuchta, was seriously wounded, and a 15-year-old bystander was injured. The assailant, Benny Lee Lawson, was killed in the exchange of gunfire. The 25-year-old had been questioned as a suspect a week earlier in a triple homicide investigation

Nearly 500 guests attended the memorial service this morning at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington, D.C., where FBI Director James Comey, Attorney General Eric Holder, and MPD Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier joined family members and former colleagues of the service martyrs to reflect on their lives and contributions. Family members who spoke at the memorial asked that their fallen siblings be celebrated for how they lived.

Paul Dixon recalled a story about his sister, Martha, who threatened to quit her elementary school when it wanted to move her into a higher-level class. She didn’t want to leave her friends. Dixon said the same was true when her fellow squad members were attacked 20 years ago. She could have escaped, but stayed to help her colleagues.

“She was going to stay there and fight for her friends and defend them. And that’s what she did. That’s an illustration of Martha’s character. That’s the woman that was taken from us,” Dixon said. “So I would encourage everybody here not to focus on the deaths of these people. It’s not how they died that made them heroes, but it’s how they lived.”


Many recalled how dangerous the city was in 1994 and credited the work of the Cold Case Squad—created in 1991 to solve moldering homicide cases—with helping turn the city around.

“It’s incumbent upon us to remember that whatever we accomplish, whatever we achieve, we achieve standing on their shoulders,” said Mike Daly, brother of Sgt. Hank Daly.

The 1994 shooting was the sixth time in FBI history that two agents had been killed at the same time as a direct result of adversarial action—and the second time it happened in Washington, D.C. The inherent dangers of law enforcement were a recurring theme.

“When the moment came, when danger threatened, they ultimately gave what President Abraham Lincoln once called that last full measure of devotion to their families, to their colleagues, and to their country,” said Attorney General Holder.

The two-hour service was followed by a procession to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, where family members laid wreaths next to the names of their loves ones etched in the marble walls.

“Let’s not dwell long on the anguish of that day,” said Tony Daniels, who was in charge of the Washington Field Office in 1994. “Let’s celebrate how they lived and how we can be proud of what they accomplished. Let’s leave here today rededicating ourselves to what they taught us and what they represent: honor, courage, commitment.”

Resources:
- FBI Hall of Honor
- Related Washington Field Office press release