Real Talk: ATF Agent Daniel Casey

ATF Agent Daniel Casey

Tue., Mar. 29, 2011
2-3 P.M.
CJava Cafe

ATF Agent Daniel Casey spent eight years on the border in McAllen, Texas, combating illegal guns on their way to Mexico and investigating arsons, fires and pipe bombs.

"We were doing so many search warrants and so much surveillance,” said Casey. “There were vehicle pursuits and shooting. When you woke up, you never knew what you were going to do that day. You didn’t know what the day held. You didn’t know who you were going to arrest. It was every idea of what I wanted to do as a cop."

Casey, a 1996 graduate of the College of Criminal Justice, will be the featured speaker at Real Talk with CJ on March 29 at 2 p.m. in CJava Café. He will discuss his career with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which enforces federal laws on the illegal use and trafficking of weapons, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol or tobacco products. He also will give advice on the best way to get a job in criminal justice.

Guns seized during an ATF raid
Guns seized during an ATF raid.

Since his assignment in the Valley from 2001 to 2009, Casey was transferred to the Houston Division, where he serves as group supervisor of a Project Gunrunner, an illegal weapons trafficking unit. He went from an office of in McAllen, where agents were responsible for every aspect of the job, to a Division Office in Houston where units specialize in key aspects of ATF’s mission. In Houston, ATF works collaboratively with other federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"I got exposure to see how other agencies work together," Casey said. "Depending on the investigation, it could include guns, narcotics, immigration issues and money laundering."

Project Gunrunner, which began as a special task force in 2008 and was composed of ATF agents from around the country, targets the flow of guns from the United States to Mexico. Texas is the number one source of illegal weapons recovered in Mexico, and Houston leads the state in the supply of guns. While the guns are going to Mexico, they are being paid for by drugs sold by Mexican cartels in the United States. The unit continues to make inroads in stopping the flow.

“It has been very, very rewarding,” Casey said.

Before joining ATF, Casey underwent about six months of training. The first 12 weeks was general federal law enforcement training, including criminal investigations, shooting skills, legal issues and conditioning. The second 15 weeks was specific to ATF and included basic laws, tactics and search warrants, explosives and arson investigations, and legal training. The practical exam at the end of the course was to blow up a car and find and reassemble the bomb.

During his career, he has gotten to work on every aspect of the agency’s mission. He also has assisted other ATF offices with special projects, such as large operation in Arizona involving the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Gang and protection detail at the United Nations in New York City.

During that mission, his group was assigned to Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, and they had to go wherever he travelled.

"Everywhere he went, we went," Casey said. "Whether he was driving in a car, going shopping, going out to dinner or to the ballet, we went with him."

While transporting the foreign president, Casey had to drive an armored limousine.

"I can remember how hard it was to turn a corner in New York City," Casey said. "The steering wheel was 75 pounds to move. The car was so bloody heavy."

Before joining the ATF, Casey worked for the then Immigration and Naturalization Service, where he served as a district adjudication officer. It was his job to determine if the marriage of a U.S. citizen and a foreign national resident was legitimate, which allows the foreign national to remain in the country. He had 22 interviews a day at 15 minute intervals to make a ruling in each case.

"It taught me a lot about interviewing people," said Casey. "You watch for ticks and some of them are clues to whether someone is telling the truth. It also helped solidify my Spanish. The more you talk to people, the more you pick it up."

He also gave citizenship exams to people from across the globe wanting to become U.S. citizens.

"They wanted to opportunity to vote freely and it meant so much to many people," Casey recalls. "They would bring every friend and family member to the ceremony. For many of them it was the crowning achievement of their lives."

Casey has advice for students coming out of criminal justice school – take the first law enforcement job that comes along. He didn’t have that experience when joining the ATF and had to be taught by agents who spent time of the streets.

"There is something valuable to learn from every aspect of law enforcement," said Casey.

Casey also said that SHSU has a great reputation in criminal justice professions, and the College’s name carries weight in the field. He has partnered with two SHSU grads, and each had the same work ethics, education and mindset as he did.

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