FBI agents warmly remembered for positive spirit and many talents

By Andrew Boryga

South Florida Sun Sentinel

SUNRISE, Fla. — Friends say Laura Schwartzenberger was as intense about her 5 a.m. CrossFit workouts as she was about raising her two boys and cracking down on criminals who tried to exploit children just like them.

Family and colleagues of Daniel Alfin call him a natural computer whiz who always intended to use his online sleuthing skills for good.

On Wednesday, those close to them still were reeling from the news that both FBI agents Schwartzenberger and Alfin were killed in the line of duty on Tuesday in Sunrise.

“They both probably got up that morning bright and early, kissed their significant others and their kids goodbye, fully expecting to see them at the end of the day,” said Andrew Vale, former special agent in charge of the FBI’s Albany field office, where Alfin worked between 2009 and 2014.

“Unfortunately, they barely made it past six in the morning.”

Loved ones remembered the two agents as dedicated servants to a higher cause, devoted parents and people who, above all, made life easier to bear thanks to their uplifting personalities.

“She had the perfect balance of grit and grace,” said Michelle Brown, the owner of CrossFit Vice, in Coral Springs, where Schwartzenberger regularly worked out. “She inspired everyone around her.”

‘For the champions’

At CrossFit Vice people chose what time they’d like to show up for daily classes. But only a select few chose to show up at 5 a.m. And according to Brown, perhaps only Schwartzenberger showed up with a smile.

“You have to be hardcore to do 5 a.m.,” Brown said. “It’s for the champions.”

Brown said Schwartzenberger was one of the very first members who turned up to her gym when Brown and her husband opened it in 2018. Over time, they all became workout partners and friends. “We feel lucky for every workout that we got to spend with her.”

Brown said CrossFit classes often bind people together, but Schwartzenberger’s work ethic and motivating spirit was particularly infectious.

A spokeswoman from Northeastern University in Massachusetts said Schwartzenberger graduated in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She joined the FBI in 2005 and worked out of a field office in Albuquerque before moving to the Miami office in 2010.

Although she dabbled in nabbing bank robbers, her specialty was pursuing crimes against children.

Outside of the gym and the FBI, Brown said Schwartzenberger was a devoted mom to her two sons. The boys are talented youth lacrosse players, and Brown said Schwartzenberger was known to stalk the sidelines at games and shoot photographs, sharing them with other parents.

She was also known to enjoy giving presentations to young people about the dangers of the internet and the job of an FBI agent.

CrossFit Vice serves a handful of FBI agents and law enforcement officers in the area, including at least one other officer who was injured in Sunrise on Tuesday, according to Brown’s husband. Brown said she and her husband found out about Schwartzenberger’s death early on and knew they would have to do something to help out the family they’ve come to know so well.

On Tuesday evening, Brown set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations for Schwartzenberger’s family. Within 24 hours, the page raised over $26,000 and counting.

On Feb. 13, Brown and other CrossFit gyms in the area will also host a fundraising workout in Schwartzenberger’s honor that will include sets of “burpees” and “powercleans” — two of Schwartzenbergers favorites.

The proceeds, Brown said, will all go toward helping the two sons Schwartzenberger leaves behind.

“We really want to help her boys have the future that she always dreamed for them,” Brown said.

‘One of the good guys’

Alfin’s father, David Alfin, raised his son Daniel in Manhasset, New York, and later South Florida, and said his son knew early on that he wanted to spend his life helping others.

After developing a specialty for computers and enmeshing himself into online networks, Daniel Alfin decided to take his talents to the FBI.

After graduating from Florida State University, he took a job working on military defense systems and later joined the FBI in 2009, working out of Albany. He initially worked on cracking down on gangs and cyber crimes, according Vale, his former boss in Albany.

He was assigned to the Miami office in 2017 and had been investigating crimes against children for seven years, according to Miami Special Agent in Charge George Piro.

The elder Alfin said his son was passionate about his job and especially about going after those who made a habit of preying on young children.

“He felt that there was a tremendous need for it,” Alfin said of his son’s role. “This guy really was one of the good guys.”

Vale said he was impressed by Alfin as soon as he turned up in the Albany FBI office. He said Alfin was skilled at obtaining hard-to-find information on the internet and knowing where to look when it came time to search the computers of suspects.

“He was a cyber expert,” Vale said. “He was brilliant.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Antoinette T. Bacon, the U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of New York, said she felt fortunate to work with Alfin over five years in Albany. She said she will remember his “intelligence, dedication, and sense of humor.”

One of his crowning achievements as an agent was investigating one of the country’s largest child porn operations on the dark web. About 900 people were arrested around the world and children in the United States were rescued, according to the FBI.

Vale said Alfin was known among the agency in Albany for working hard, sharing with others and never complaining. “He was a great agent, but he was an even better person.”

Over the past 24 hours, he said he’s thought a lot about the 4-year-old son that he said Alfin leaves behind.

“It’s dangerous what law enforcement does day in and day out to keep the American people safe,” Vale said, reflecting on Alfin and Schwartzenberger, who he said he never knew personally.

“We owe them both a debt of gratitude.”

(c)2021 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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