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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida


Tallahassee, FL
United States

Remarks as Delivered

Good morning everybody. In just a few minutes, United States Attorney Coody and I will meet with the officers gathered around this table. I am grateful to each of them for being here today.

At the top of our agenda will be our shared efforts to help keep our communities safe from violent crime.

As always, but especially right now, that includes remaining vigilant in the face of the potential threats of hate-fueled violence and terrorism.

Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel have created understandable fear among communities across the country.

As the FBI has noted, we are seeing an increase in reported threats against faith communities, particularly Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities and institutions.

Last week, I directed all 94 of our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the FBI to be in close touch with our state, local, and federal law enforcement partners in their districts.

Today marks the third consecutive day I have met with our U.S. Attorneys and federal, state, and local law enforcement officials here in Florida. I have also directed our U.S. Attorneys to reach out to religious and other community leaders in their districts to reaffirm our commitment to assist them and to assess whether there is an additional support that they need.

Our partnerships with federal, state, and local law enforcement, and with the communities they serve, are at the center of our efforts to keep our country and our communities safe.

And we are committed to doing everything we can to provide our local law enforcement partners with the support they need and they deserve.

The Justice Department is dedicating our resources to programs that support officer safety, health, and wellness; to initiatives that help build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve; and to incentives to address the recruitment and retention crisis that we’re seeing all across the country with respect to law enforcement.

Just last week, the Department announced grant funding to law enforcement agencies and stakeholders across the country to support crime reduction efforts and officer wellness. We awarded $200,000 to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and $200,000 to the Walton County Sheriff's Office in grants specifically dedicated to expanding access to health and wellness services for law enforcement officers.

We are also doing everything in our power to harness our investigative and prosecutive resources so that we can be the best partners that we can be to state and local law enforcement.

For this U.S. Attorney’s Office, that has meant coordinating with law enforcement agencies across the Department to combat violent crime.

For example, last year, a man shot two people in Pensacola during an attempted robbery. Both thankfully survived, but could not identify the shooter at the time because of their wounds. After law enforcement tracked the shooter down with the help of surveillance video, ATF ballistics experts were able to confirm that he was in possession of the very same gun that was used in the robbery. The shooter was found guilty in August and will be sentenced later this year.

The Department is also focused on breaking apart every link in the global fentanyl supply Chain. Earlier this summer, as part of Operation Agua Azul, this office working with DEA and law enforcement partners here in Florida seized large quantities of fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine. To date, this office has charged 32 defendants and secured 28 guilty pleas as part of that investigation.

And in July, together with the Department’s Civil Rights Division, this office secured the conviction of a defendant who attacked a group of Black men near the site of the horrific hate-fueled 1923 Rosewood Massacre. That defendant was convicted on federal hate crimes charges land was just sentenced yesterday.

These examples are just a snapshot of the work this office does every day to fulfill our Department’s mission: to uphold the rule of law, to keep our country and our communities safe, and to protect civil rights.

But we cannot do that work without the law enforcement partners around this table. The entire Department is grateful for that partnership. I am grateful for that partnership.

I well understand the dangerous and stressful job of state and local law enforcement.

Last Christmas Eve, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Special Response Team was called in to respond to a domestic violence incident. Corporal Ray Hamilton answered the call. The suspect refused to leave the residence and shot Corporal Hamilton from a window, killing him.

In June 2022, when a homicide suspect fled the scene of the crime, the Tallahassee Police Department was called in to assist in the pursuit. Officer Christopher Fariello answered the call.

During the chase, the suspect drove straight into oncoming traffic and rammed Officer Fariello’s car. Officer Fariello died from the injuries he suffered in that crash.

My heart goes out to the families of these to families of the fallen officers, and the families of so many other fallen officers across our country. The Justice Department will do everything in our power to support law enforcement officers and their families. We know that when our officers are safe and supported, our communities are better kept safe.

Thank you very much for being here. We’re ready to start our meeting.

Updated October 20, 2023