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FBI’s Richard DesLauriers becomes familiar face

FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers at a briefing on the investigation.

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers at a briefing on the investigation.

Richard DesLauriers was one of several law enforcement officials at Fenway Park Saturday afternoon, invited by the Red Sox to honor the officials for their handling of the Boston Marathon bombings and the capture of one of the suspects.

It was the Red Sox’ first home game since the Marathon, and the law enforcement officials were welcomed as heroes.

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But as soon as the first pitch was thrown, DesLauriers was gone. He had rejoined other members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and state, local, and federal investigators who are continuing to work on the case.

DesLauriers, the special agent in charge of Boston’s FBI office since 2010, says he would rather be working behind the scenes than making public appearances. But in the days after the bombing, he became a familiar face to the public, after announcing that the FBI would take the lead role in the case.

“I like to win and I hate to lose, and I try to bring that competitiveness to the workplace and apply it to my mission within the FBI, whatever that mission might be at any given time,’’ DesLauriers said in an interview with the Globe.

In what was perhaps Boston’s most intense week of law enforcement activity, DesLauriers, a Massachusetts native who grew up in Longmeadow, was at the center — his trademark calm and “bookish” personality set the tone for the 100-hour-long investigation: the painstaking analysis of the crime scene, the scouring of countless video and photo images.

“He’s precise, and there’s a need for precision in this type of thing,” said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, who worked alongside DesLauriers throughout the investigation. “When we made decisions, he would say we had to regroup, this is team work,” Davis added.

“It was a hectic week, and we were working with a variety of partners,” DesLauriers said. “And I was emphasizing the message we were one team fighting one fight and we would do everything we can to ensure that justice was served.”

As the public hungered for answers after two days of silence from the FBI, it was ultimately DesLauriers’ call to release photos of the two suspects. That decision has been called a turning point in the investigation, one that “flushed out” suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev from hiding.

US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, who partners with DesLauriers in federal cases, said, “he’s very straight-laced, by the book, a real G-Man when you think of the FBI.”

DesLauriers has emerged as perhaps one of the most high profile FBI supervisors that Boston has seen. His arrival in 2010 was marked by the announcement of the “Operation Ghost Stories” investigation he helped oversee — the arrest of several Russian spies and their family members who had been living anonymously in the country, some in the Boston area.

He was the local FBI leader during the arrest of reputed gangster James “Whitey” Bulger in 2011. And he announced on the 23d anniversary of the notorious Gardner Museum art heist in March that the FBI has determined the identity of those involved in the theft, and that agents had traced the paintings to Philadelphia, where they may have been as recently as a decade ago.

Despite successes, his office has also faced criticism.

The FBI is conducting an internal investigation — and Congressional inquiries have been made — into a controversial relationship between the agency and Mark Rossetti, a violent Mafia leader and suspected killer who was secretly working for the FBI as an informant, possibly in violation of the agency’s guidelines.

His office’s intelligence on the bombing suspects is also likely to come under Congressional scrutiny: The FBI had been warned by Russia in 2011 that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the two suspects, had turned to “radical Islam,” and the agency investigated him and his family, but Tsarnaev reportedly fell off their radar.

The question of when the identity of the bombing suspects was known, and the decision to release the suspects’ photos to the public Thursday, will also probably be reviewed.

In an interview Saturday, DesLauriers would not address questions related to the investigation of the Marathon bombings.

In describing DesLauriers, friends and associates said he has a strong “moral compass,” and his calculating, quiet demeanor in investigations and at press briefings is characteristic of the 53-year-old family man — a father of a teenage boy, and a graduate of Assumption College and the Catholic University of America in Washington, where he earned his law degree in 1986.

At Assumption he studied political science and minored in history, graduating in 1982.

“It would take an awful lot to rattle him,” said the Rev. Brian O’Toole, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Gardner, who roomed with DesLauriers during their years at Assumption.

“He just assesses things, he’s always been that way.”

O’Toole said DesLauriers and their circle of friends were typical college students, attending parties and dances and playing intramural sports.

Des­Lauriers, a conservative in his politics, would debate more liberal friends.

The only time O’Toole said he saw DesLauriers lose his cool, he said, was after the attempted assassination of President Reagan.

“He slammed the door. He was very upset,” O’Toole said. “The injustice that happened there, at that time, he just couldn’t fathom it, why would anyone do this.”

Assumption president Francesco C. Cesareo said DesLauriers has remained involved at the college and was already scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the May 11 commencement.

“He has a moral compass, a moral focus,” Cesareo said.

As a 26-year veteran of the FBI, DesLauriers spent most of that time in the counter­espionage unit, transferring between bureaus in Boston, New York, and Washington.

He was the FBI’s deputy assistant director heading counterintelligence operations when he was named special agent in charge in Boston in 2010 – just as the storied Operation Ghost Stories investigation ended.

“It was my desire to get back to Boston, this is my home,” he said.

The attacks at the Boston Marathon were also personal for DesLauriers, a sports fan and an avid runner.

“The fact that a marathon with such a cherished tradition like the Boston Marathon, the fact that there would be acts of violence against runners and spectators, at such a wonderful event, I found it particularly galling,” he said.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.
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