Remembering Special Agent Brian Crews: A Life of Selfless Service
Remarks prepared for delivery.
On behalf of the entire FBI family, let me begin by offering our deepest condolences to Robin and the rest of Brian’s family. Thank you for sharing this dedicated public servant—this patriot—with all of us. Please know that you will always be part of the FBI family.
I’m told that Brian was a man of strong faith. There’s a traditional Methodist prayer that I’m sure he must have known, and I think it captures well what Brian Crews was all about. I’d like to share a few lines of it with you:
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
“Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will,” Brian said. “Put me to doing.”
Brian was “put to doing” over and over again during a remarkable 27-year career with the Bureau. When he retired, Brian wrote that he had wanted to work for the FBI “so I could make a positive difference in world events.” There’s no doubt he accomplished that.
Brian joined the Bureau in 1988 as a file clerk, then became a special agent in 1994. After graduating from the Academy, he was on his way to his first assignment in Fresno, and was actually in Oklahoma City when the Murrah Building was bombed. That turned out to be his first investigation.
After Brian arrived in Fresno to work for our Sacramento Division, the Unabomber claimed his final victim in Sacramento. That was Brian’s second investigation.
Yikes. Talk about baptism by fire.
Later, Brian would come face-to-face with a serial killer who murdered three tourists in Yosemite National Park. As a member of Sacramento’s Evidence Response Team, he worked on the scene of a plane crash and processed crime scenes involving victims of Russian organized crime.
Through all this, Brian did what he set out to do: he made a positive difference.
I’m told that Brian was one of those agents who didn’t need much supervision to do great work. One of his former supervisors said, “He was dedicated to his job, and tremendously proficient at it. You could put him on auto-pilot and you knew he’d get the job done. When Brian said he was going to do something, he would do it.”
Another of Brian’s colleagues said that when he thinks about the “quintessential FBI agent”—someone very focused on their job, but also incredibly good with people—he thinks of Brian. Brian had a talent for getting victims to open up and talk to him. He was equally talented at grilling the subject of an investigation and getting the information we needed for a case.
Brian Crews was “put to doing”—and he did his work with pride and with extraordinary dedication.
Through his actions—through his work—Brian echoed the words of that prayer: “Let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you; exalted for you, or brought low for you.”
Brian was exalted for his work—precisely because he didn’t mind being laid aside or brought low.
In 2003, he was transferred to our Washington Field Office, where he worked on the Enron Task Force, one of the most high-profile white-collar crime investigations in the Bureau’s history.
While Brian was proud to be an agent, he wasn’t the kind to seek attention, even on a big case like that one. Paula Ebersole, an agent who worked with him on the task force, said that Brian preferred to do his work quietly, in the background. She said his persistence and dedication in following one obscure lead in the Enron investigation—really digging into it and not letting it go until he put all the pieces together—made all the difference, and was ultimately responsible for a huge turning point at trial.
Because Brian was comfortable working behind the scenes, he was exalted. For his work on the Enron case, he was part of a team that earned the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service—one of the Justice Department’s highest honors.
“I am no longer my own, but yours,” the prayer says. Brian lived those words, too.
Every special agent knows the truth of those words, deep down—and Brian sure did. The moment FBI agents take the oath and receive their badge, their life is no longer their own. In the end, it belongs to others, and is offered in service to others.
One thing that stood out to everyone in the Bureau who knew Brian was his selflessness.
His colleagues say he was always the first person in the office. And when he got there, Brian would make coffee for everyone else, even though he didn’t drink coffee himself. If you asked him why, he would say: “I just wanted everyone to have a hot cup of coffee when they came to work.”
They also say Brian was the type of person who would ask about you and your family before anything else. One of his Enron Task Force colleagues, Dan Weiss, said that the day his own daughter was born, Brian and his wife showed up out of nowhere, just to see how Dan and his wife and their new baby were doing.
Brian also loved to help and mentor others. I’m told he took under his wing some intelligence analysts on one of his squads who all wanted to become special agents. Brian would train with them and help them do mock fit tests. He also loved to teach, and served as a member of the Bureau’s adjunct faculty program—instructing our agents on a variety of topics.
Again, the words of the prayer spring to mind: “I am no longer my own, but yours.”
Ultimately, Brian gave everything—even his life—in service to others.
After the 9/11 attacks, Brian served a tour at the World Trade Center evidence processing site. Like so many others, Brian did that grim yet necessary work without a second thought about the possible consequences.
We’re only now beginning to better understand—and witness—the long-term effects of that work, and the full extent of the sacrifices made by Brian and all the brave men and women who responded during that dark time.
This is the third memorial service I’ve attended this year for an FBI agent who’s fallen as a direct result of their work after the 9/11 attacks. And like Melissa Morrow in Kansas City, like his former boss and good friend Dave LeValley in Atlanta, Brian Crews demonstrated the words of that prayer: “Put me to suffering … let me be laid aside for you … let me be empty … let me have nothing.”
After his retirement from the FBI in November 2015, Brian was put to suffering. Because of his work after 9/11, Brian developed lung cancer, and eventually it spread to his brain.
Yet many of Brian’s former colleagues didn’t even know he was sick. One said that Brian never complained, “because he didn’t want people to worry about him.” As always, Brian was thinking of others first.
A few weeks before he passed, I had the chance to speak with Brian. Even in the midst of all he was facing, his first inclination was to tell me about the inspiring people he worked with over the course of his career, from his training agent to his colleagues in our Criminal Investigative Division at the time of his retirement. To make sure I knew about them—of his gratitude to them.
To me, that’s the mark of a great leader, a good friend, and a life well-lived: someone who thinks of others first, and who is quick to share credit.
Those who worked with Brian have described him as “true-blue FBI,” and it’s easy to see why. We couldn’t have asked for a better agent to represent the Bureau.
Back at FBI Headquarters and in every field office, there is a Wall of Honor, where the names of our fallen agents are inscribed.
In time, we’ll add Brian’s name to that wall. And when we look up and see it, we’ll remember him as a dedicated agent, a selfless colleague and friend, and a shining example of all that is good and decent about the people of the FBI.
Thank you for inviting me here today. It’s an honor to be with you to remember Brian.