The FBI has purposefully — and, it says, justifiably — shot 150 Americans since 1993
A by-the-numbers look at the bureau's apparently blameless firing at suspected criminals and other intentional targets
Defenders say FBI agents are older and better trained than other officers, which is why their shots are almost always justified.
Defenders say FBI agents are older and better trained than other officers, which is why their shots are almost always justified. Reuters/CORBIS

After the FBI shot and killed Ibragim Todashev in May, while agents were questioning him about his connection to alleged Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the bureau pledged to investigate the cloudy circumstances surrounding the death. "The FBI takes very seriously any shooting incidents involving our agents, and as such we have an effective, time-tested process for addressing them internally," an agency spokesman said.

If the FBI's post-shooting inquiries are time-tested, "their outcomes are also predictable," say Charlie Savage and Michael S. Schmidt in The New York Times. In every single intentional shooting by FBI agents since 1993, the bureau's internal investigations have ruled the shooting as justified, according to interviews and FBI documents The New York Times obtained through a Freedom of Information Act.

It turns out, with rare exception, the FBI launches an inquiry whenever an agent fires a shot in the field. "Critics say the fact that for at least two decades no agent has been disciplined for any instance of deliberately shooting someone raises questions about the credibility of the bureau's internal investigations," say Savage and Schmidt, but FBI defenders say that several factors explain the impressive record, including that FBI agents "tend to be older, more experienced, and better trained than city police officers."

Whatever the reason, here's a look at the FBI's record of shooting Americans between 1993 to 2011, by the numbers:

Pages of FBI records delivered to The New York Times

Incidents covered in those records where gunfire was exchanged

Suspects shot and killed by the FBI in that period

Suspects shot and wounded by the FBI in that period

Percentage of those shootings deemed justified after internal investigations

Law enforcement officials killed in the covered incidents

Law enforcement officials wounded in the covered incidents

Total deliberate FBI shootings covered in the documents, including those that wounded nobody

Incidents deemed "bad shoots," or weapons discharges that didn't comply with FBI policy. None of the "bad" shots hit anybody. (Agents are allowed to used deadly force if they fear their lives, or the lives of their colleagues, are in danger.)

$1.3 million
FBI payout to the victim of a 2002 FBI shooting, an innocent 20-year-old the FBI mistook for a bank robber. Even after settling with the victim, the FBI investigators classified the shooting as justifiable.

Source: New York Times

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian, and plays in an Austin rock band.


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