LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A U.S. immigration agent shot his boss six times during a performance discussion at the agency’s offices in a Los Angeles suburb before being shot dead by another colleague, authorities said on Friday.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Ezequiel Garcia, 45, opened fire on Deputy Special Agent in Charge Kevin Kozak during the Thursday altercation, Steven Martinez, assistant director of the Los Angeles field office of the FBI, told reporters.
A third agent, who has not been identified by authorities, then shot and killed Garcia, Martinez said. Kozak, 51, was rushed to a local hospital under police escort, where he was listed in stable condition on Friday.
“Mr. Kozak was counseling Mr. Garcia with regard to his performance,” Martinez said, without elaborating on the substance of the discussion. “We believe an escalation in that discussion led Mr. Garcia to fire his weapon several times, injuring Mr. Kozak.”
“After Mr. Garcia opened fire, another agent working nearby intervened and fired his weapon to prevent additional rounds from being fired by Mr Garcia,” Martinez said. “This resulted, as you’ve heard, in the death of Mr. Garcia.”
ICE Director John Morton later commended Kozak and the unidentified third agent for their quick action under fire.
“Both of these men came to work yesterday never imagining that they would literally be fighting for their lives,” he told a news conference.
Morton said he had spoken with both agents and that Kozak was doing well despite his serious injuries.
“I’ve just come back from the hospital where I visited with Agent Kozak and his family, and I am very happy to report that while Agent Kozak suffered multiple gunshot wounds all over his body he is alert, he is stable and he is focused on his recovery,” he said.
“Yesterday was a dark day, no doubt about it, but we will emerge a stronger agency,” the director said.
The shooting erupted during rush hour near downtown Los Angeles and prompted police to shut down streets and a major intersection for more than an hour.
Local television images showed an ambulance rushing the injured agent to a nearby hospital accompanied by a police escort as law enforcement agents ringed the building.
Additional reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Greg McCune