Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Deputy Director Thomas Brandon, for that kind introduction, and for your outstanding leadership of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). I also want to acknowledge my colleagues from across the Department of Justice who are here today, as well as the many current and former federal and local law enforcement officers and members of the armed forces who have taken the time to join us. And, of course, I want to thank the family of Special Agent Ariel Rios – especially his wife, Elsie, his son Frank and so many other members of the Rios family. You honor us all with your presence.
We are here today to rename a building. But more importantly, we are here to honor a man. Thanks to the tireless efforts of lawmakers, law enforcement officers, and members of the public, the headquarters of ATF will once again bear the name of Special Agent Ariel Rios.
This is as it should be. In an agency known for bravery and dedication – and in the rich history of the Department of Justice – Special Agent Rios stands out for his intrepid courage, total selflessness, and steadfast integrity. At the age of just 27, he accepted an assignment as an undercover narcotics agent in south Florida, subjecting himself to extreme stress and harrowing danger on a daily basis. Those of you who have done undercover work know the stress, the danger, the loneliness of the work as well as the strain it places on one’s family. Ariel Rios did that work and did it well. He did not do it for reward or recognition – or even to have a building named after him, but because he believed in the cause of justice, a cause that he served with commitment and skill. When he saw the challenges facing South Florida at that time and learned the task force was seeking agents, he joined, because he knew he had the skill, the experience and the judgment needed – but more importantly because he knew that he could help. It is especially fitting that we are here on Dec. 2, because it was 34 years ago today that Special Agent Rios gave his life for that cause, when he and his partner, Special Agent Alex D’Atri, were executing an undercover operation in Miami. Special Agent D’Atri suffered serious wounds in that operation, but he survived. He is here with us today, and I ask all of you to join me in recognizing his valor and heroism.
This is the second ATF headquarters building to be named for Special Agent Rios. By consecrating this site in his memory, we give public expression to our private feelings: our gratitude for his service; our admiration for his bravery; and our awe at his sacrifice. The granite and steel within this foundation symbolizes his strength and determination. The soaring glass of the atrium echoes his open heart and generous soul. And the public-facing sign we will soon dedicate illustrates his commitment to the protection of the American people. With this building naming today, we ensure that future generations of ATF agents and employees will be inspired by the life and example of Special Agent Ariel Rios. And we show our determination to continue the work for which he gave his life.
Ultimately, that work is the most fitting memorial we can offer to the memory of Ariel Rios. Naming this building in his honor is indeed a high tribute, but the memory of Ariel Rios lives on not simply in a structure, but in his enduring spirit – a spirit of devotion to duty; service to others; and fidelity to the law. That spirit animated Ariel Rios in life, and it led him to keep his oath unto death. It represents the highest aspiration of our profession – the standard by which law enforcement officers measure themselves each and every day. And so, on this solemn occasion, let we who are gathered here today resolve to honor the memory of Special Agent Rios not only by bestowing his name upon this building, but by emulating his spirit in our work. Let us reaffirm our commitment to the ideals he served so well. And let us continue to build the more just, the more peaceful – the more perfect – union for which he gave his life.
May God bless the memory of Special Agent Ariel Rios, and shelter his family in his everlasting grace. May He bless all the fallen in our law enforcement family and protect all those who continue to serve. And may He continue to bless the United States of America.