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FBI agent killed in Florida studied criminal justice at Northeastern

Law enforcement officers gathered near the site of an apartment complex where two FBI agents were shot to death Tuesday in Sunrise, Fla. The suspect was found dead in the complex.
Law enforcement officers gathered near the site of an apartment complex where two FBI agents were shot to death Tuesday in Sunrise, Fla. The suspect was found dead in the complex.Marta Lavandier/Associated Press

As news spread Tuesday that two FBI agents had been killed in Sunrise, Fla., while executing a federal search warrant, Ben Lipman’s phone rang.

The caller was a former colleague from Guardsmark, the security company founded by Lipman’s family. They asked if he’d heard that one of those two agents was Laura Schwartzenberger, his acquaintance from Northeastern University who had worked at Guardsmark before joining the FBI in 2005.

Lipman remembered Schwartzenberger, though he hadn’t spoken with her in years. They both studied criminal justice at Northeastern, Lipman graduating with his bachelors in 1999 and Schwartzenberger earning her degree a year later.

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A spokeswoman for Northeastern confirmed Tuesday night that Schwartzenberger graduated with a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from the university in 2000.

After graduation, Schwartzenberger joined Guardsmark, where she worked out of the company’s office in Denver, just a couple of hours north of her hometown of Pueblo, Colo.

Lipman said she stayed with the company for “three or four years,” but her aim was not to spend her career working in the private sector, he said.

“She always wanted to go into the bureau,” Lipman said by telephone Tuesday night. “That was what she was passionate about. She always seemed like the type of person who was very service-oriented and wanted to help other people.”

Schwartzenberger, 43, and Dan Alfin, 36, were both killed in the line of duty Tuesday when the subject of their investigation opened fire on the law enforcement team conducting the search, the FBI said.

Three other agents were also shot. Two were transported to area hospitals, while the third had his wounds treated at the scene, FBI Miami Special Agent in Charge George Piro said during a press conference Tuesday.

“Dan and Laura left home this morning to carry out the mission they signed up for and loved to do—to keep the American people safe,” Piro said. “They were valuable members of our team. They will forever be heroes. We will always honor their ultimate sacrifice.”

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Authorities have not identified the shooter, who died at the scene.

Schwartzenberger was initially assigned to the FBI’s office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but was reassigned in 2010 to join the bureau’s Miami office where she investigated crimes against children for more than seven years.

Her work and impact extended beyond the bureau. She educated children and young students in the Miami area about online safety. One local middle school posted a message on Facebook offering condolences and sharing the impact Schwartzenberger had on their students.

“As an FBI agent, Laura taught our students each year about the dangers of social media and much more,” the post read. “She would always say, ‘I feel that coming here and talking about the hard stuff means that I won’t see you guys on my end.”


Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.