LOS ANGELES -- New details have emerged about the federal agent accused of shooting his supervisor on Thursday in Long Beach, Calif., during a conversation about job performance.
Ezequiel Garcia, an agent for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, reached for his gun and shot his boss at least six times after discussing his performance with the agency’s second-in-command, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said Saturday.
Another agent who attended the discussion and had just left the office rushed back and burst in to disarm Garcia after the shots rang out. They engaged in a serious struggle and the colleague who rushed in subsequently shot and killed Garcia, an official said.
“There was a very, very intense struggle,” Kice said. “They were physically struggling over the gun.”
The supervisor, Kevin Kozak, continued his recovery Saturday from bullet wounds to the hand, knee and torso, Kice said.
Kozak, 51, is the agency's deputy special agent in charge of investigations in the Los Angeles region.
Los Angeles police officers who work in the building on a joint task force for Internet crimes responded to a call for help and aided the bleeding Kozak, Kice said.
“The fact that they were literally right there probably was another thing that was instrumental in his survival,” she said.
Officer's career, life under scrutiny
Garcia joined the former Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1988 and was named criminal investigator three years later.
Shortly after the Department of Homeland Security was created in 2003, he was promoted to supervisor for a documents and benefits fraud task force.
He had told his wife of problems at work but, when she called him at the office Thursday, everything seemed normal, according to the Los Angeles Times.
They talked about having Korean barbecue for dinner, but he said he first had to meet with a high-ranking supervisor about his performance.
She told the Times the couple were going through a divorce but trying to work things out.
Garcia was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department after he and another immigration agent claimed they were roughed up by officers while doing undercover work.
A federal jury found in the police officers' favor in 2005, saying they did not use excessive force.
The lawsuit alleges that officers handcuffed and threatened to shoot the other agent, and put Garcia in a headlock, handcuffed him and forced him into the back of a police car, despite his cries of agony because of an old shoulder injury.
Garcia was hospitalized for cuts, bruises and treatment of his shoulder.
“If this could happen to me, then ordinary citizens have even more reason to fear for their own safety,” Garcia told the Los Angeles Times when the lawsuit was filed in 2000. “The situation within the LAPD is clearly out of control.”
Shocked by his death
Doug Walters, an attorney who represented Garcia, said he was shocked by his death.
“During the time I worked with Zeke, his supervisors were very supportive of him and the case,” Walters said. “Some of his supervisors traveled some distances to testify.”
Kice said she didn't know what job performance issues Garcia was counseled about before the shooting, and couldn't disclose them if she did.
A federal official with knowledge of the investigation has told The Associated Press that Kozak denied Garcia's request for an internal transfer.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
ICE routinely reallocates resources in line with priorities, but does not disclose details for security reasons, Kice has said.
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