Category: Jeffrey James Higgins

Stalking an Active Shooter


During the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida, four Broward County sheriff’s deputies, including a school resource officer, allegedly waited to enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while children were being murdered inside.  If Sheriff Scott Israel’s investigation confirms that those officers failed to take action, they should be fired for abrogating their most sacred duty.

Police officers need to confront suspects immediately during an active shooter situation in a school or other public place.  Ideally, there should be at least two officers present to clear even a single room.  The search of a school is best done by a tactical team, but an active shooter is an exception to the rule.  In exigent circumstances, when there is a serious risk of death or bodily injury to others, police need to respond immediately, even if that means searching with a less than optimal number of officers.

The FBI has developed protocols for how law enforcement should respond to active shooters, and over 114,000 officers have already received Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training.  This training is designed to give officers the basic tactical formations and other techniques needed to clear a school with a limited number of officers.  When a mass shooting occurs, it is likely that the officers who respond will come from different departments and will have different levels of training, as was the case in Parkland.  The training is designed to allow officers who never worked together to enter schools, locate the shooter, and eliminate the threat.

All active shooter incidents are exigencies, where even a lone officer needs to take action.  When the attack is in a school, as in Parkland, the need for swift action is even greater.  Children are among the most defenseless and vulnerable people in our society, and the main role of government is to stop citizens from using force against each other.  It may seem harsh to criticize those four officers for not risking their lives and entering the school, but it appears they failed to fulfill a duty on which the public depends.

As a deputy sheriff with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, I once received a domestic disturbance call just as our patrol zones shifted to the east, so I responded knowing that my backup would probably be several minutes away.  As I approached the parking lot to the complainant’s community, the dispatcher updated the call to say she heard shots being fired.  I requested my backup to expedite and jogged to the townhouse.

As I walked up to the front of the building, a terrified woman burst through the front door toward me.  “He has a gun, and he’s going to shoot my kids.  Please, don’t let him kill my kids,” she pleaded.  I radioed dispatch that an armed man was threatening to murder children, then I drew my gun and shouldered my way through the front door.

I quickly cleared the bottom floor, then slowly ascended the stairs to the second floor.  The house was completely dark, and I held my flashlight in one hand and a .45 semi-automatic handgun in the other.  There was an open bedroom door at the end of the hall, so I moved toward it because it was the most immediate danger.  My pulse accelerated as I approached the door, not knowing where the suspect was or if the children were still alive.

I reached the room and saw a man lying flat on his back, blood pumping out of his chest, and a semiautomatic handgun on the floor near his right hand.  I could smell the gunpowder in the room, and the man looked dead.  I glanced around, but there was no sign of the children.  “Sheriff’s Office.  Kids, are you here?” I shouted.  A young boy, probably only five years old, popped up behind the bed, his eyes wide with fear.  A moment later, a second child peeked over the bed at me.  “Come to me,” I said and stepped into the room positioning myself between the man and the children as they moved around the bed.  “Run outside and find your mother,” I said, and they fled the room in their pajamas.

This was a crime scene, and I didn’t want to disturb the evidence, but I had to secure both the handgun and the man and then finish searching the house.  I bent down cautiously and grabbed the handgun.  As soon as I stood up, the man who I thought was dead bolted upright and screamed.  My knees felt weak from the surprise, and I took a step back, covering him with my gun.     

The man jumped up and ran from the room, blood spurting everywhere.  I chased him down the hallway and radioed that the suspect was fleeing.  I followed him down the stairs and out the front door, where the man stopped and confronted me.  I stuffed his gun in my waistband, covering him with my own, and ordered him to “get on the ground,” but he just babbled incoherently.  A second deputy arrived and tackled him, and we quickly subdued and handcuffed him.  I later learned that the gunshot was self-inflicted and that the man had had survived.

This incident illustrates the need to act from a disadvantaged tactical position when children are at risk.  I didn’t wait for my backup or take cover behind a car.  I knew that searching a dark two-story townhouse alone was dangerous, but the circumstances made this an exception, so I confronted the suspect alone.  If I didn’t, those children could have died.

In Parkland, it is unclear how many children those four deputies could have saved if they entered the school immediately, but they may have been able to stop the attack much sooner.  Even if the deputies who stayed outside the school while children died had poor training or little experience in lethal situations, they still failed to protect the lives of the innocent.  Sheriff Israel needs to conduct a transparent investigation and quickly fire any officers who failed to respond properly.  Not to harshly punish those officers for dereliction of duty is to undermine citizens’ trust in the police.

Jeffrey James Higgins is a retired DEA supervisory special agent and a former Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy, with over 25 years of total law enforcement experience.  His recent writing and media appearances can be found at JeffreyJamesHiggins.com.

During the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida, four Broward County sheriff’s deputies, including a school resource officer, allegedly waited to enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while children were being murdered inside.  If Sheriff Scott Israel’s investigation confirms that those officers failed to take action, they should be fired for abrogating their most sacred duty.

Police officers need to confront suspects immediately during an active shooter situation in a school or other public place.  Ideally, there should be at least two officers present to clear even a single room.  The search of a school is best done by a tactical team, but an active shooter is an exception to the rule.  In exigent circumstances, when there is a serious risk of death or bodily injury to others, police need to respond immediately, even if that means searching with a less than optimal number of officers.

The FBI has developed protocols for how law enforcement should respond to active shooters, and over 114,000 officers have already received Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training.  This training is designed to give officers the basic tactical formations and other techniques needed to clear a school with a limited number of officers.  When a mass shooting occurs, it is likely that the officers who respond will come from different departments and will have different levels of training, as was the case in Parkland.  The training is designed to allow officers who never worked together to enter schools, locate the shooter, and eliminate the threat.

All active shooter incidents are exigencies, where even a lone officer needs to take action.  When the attack is in a school, as in Parkland, the need for swift action is even greater.  Children are among the most defenseless and vulnerable people in our society, and the main role of government is to stop citizens from using force against each other.  It may seem harsh to criticize those four officers for not risking their lives and entering the school, but it appears they failed to fulfill a duty on which the public depends.

As a deputy sheriff with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, I once received a domestic disturbance call just as our patrol zones shifted to the east, so I responded knowing that my backup would probably be several minutes away.  As I approached the parking lot to the complainant’s community, the dispatcher updated the call to say she heard shots being fired.  I requested my backup to expedite and jogged to the townhouse.

As I walked up to the front of the building, a terrified woman burst through the front door toward me.  “He has a gun, and he’s going to shoot my kids.  Please, don’t let him kill my kids,” she pleaded.  I radioed dispatch that an armed man was threatening to murder children, then I drew my gun and shouldered my way through the front door.

I quickly cleared the bottom floor, then slowly ascended the stairs to the second floor.  The house was completely dark, and I held my flashlight in one hand and a .45 semi-automatic handgun in the other.  There was an open bedroom door at the end of the hall, so I moved toward it because it was the most immediate danger.  My pulse accelerated as I approached the door, not knowing where the suspect was or if the children were still alive.

I reached the room and saw a man lying flat on his back, blood pumping out of his chest, and a semiautomatic handgun on the floor near his right hand.  I could smell the gunpowder in the room, and the man looked dead.  I glanced around, but there was no sign of the children.  “Sheriff’s Office.  Kids, are you here?” I shouted.  A young boy, probably only five years old, popped up behind the bed, his eyes wide with fear.  A moment later, a second child peeked over the bed at me.  “Come to me,” I said and stepped into the room positioning myself between the man and the children as they moved around the bed.  “Run outside and find your mother,” I said, and they fled the room in their pajamas.

This was a crime scene, and I didn’t want to disturb the evidence, but I had to secure both the handgun and the man and then finish searching the house.  I bent down cautiously and grabbed the handgun.  As soon as I stood up, the man who I thought was dead bolted upright and screamed.  My knees felt weak from the surprise, and I took a step back, covering him with my gun.     

The man jumped up and ran from the room, blood spurting everywhere.  I chased him down the hallway and radioed that the suspect was fleeing.  I followed him down the stairs and out the front door, where the man stopped and confronted me.  I stuffed his gun in my waistband, covering him with my own, and ordered him to “get on the ground,” but he just babbled incoherently.  A second deputy arrived and tackled him, and we quickly subdued and handcuffed him.  I later learned that the gunshot was self-inflicted and that the man had had survived.

This incident illustrates the need to act from a disadvantaged tactical position when children are at risk.  I didn’t wait for my backup or take cover behind a car.  I knew that searching a dark two-story townhouse alone was dangerous, but the circumstances made this an exception, so I confronted the suspect alone.  If I didn’t, those children could have died.

In Parkland, it is unclear how many children those four deputies could have saved if they entered the school immediately, but they may have been able to stop the attack much sooner.  Even if the deputies who stayed outside the school while children died had poor training or little experience in lethal situations, they still failed to protect the lives of the innocent.  Sheriff Israel needs to conduct a transparent investigation and quickly fire any officers who failed to respond properly.  Not to harshly punish those officers for dereliction of duty is to undermine citizens’ trust in the police.

Jeffrey James Higgins is a retired DEA supervisory special agent and a former Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy, with over 25 years of total law enforcement experience.  His recent writing and media appearances can be found at JeffreyJamesHiggins.com.



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Understanding Narco-Terrorism


To defeat terrorism, the United States should use federal criminal laws to aggressively target narco-terrorists. While narco-terrorism is frequently mentioned in the news, it is rarely explained properly, and as a result, many skeptics doubt its impact. Understanding how drug trafficking fuels terrorism is necessary to craft effective counterterrorism policy and to triumph in the global war on terror.

Narco-terrorism describes the nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism. This term covers a wide spectrum of behavior, but there are four primary types of narco-terrorism. As a special agent with the DEA, I investigated narco-terrorism for over a decade. After the narco-terrorism law was enacted in 2006, I made the first, precedent-setting arrest for narco-terrorism and I was the case agent for the first two narco-terrorism convictions. The link between narcotics trafficking and terrorism is significant and has been repeatedly proven in court.

The Basics

The crime of narco-terrorism is prosecuted under Title 21 US Code 960a — Foreign Terrorist Organizations, Terrorist Persons, and Groups. To summarize, it is illegal for anyone to violate federal drug law then provide anything of pecuniary value to a person or organization engaging in terrorist activity or terrorism.

Federal drug laws, as defined under 21 USC 841, cover the possession, manufacture, and distribution of controlled substances, which meet a minimum weight threshold. Terrorist activity, as defined in 8 USC 1182, includes crimes such as hijacking, assassination, kidnapping, and use of weapons of mass destruction. Terrorism is defined, under 22 USC 2656, as politically motivated violence against noncombatants. So, narco-terrorism can involve people engaged in terrorist acts or those belonging to groups designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. Department of State.

Four Types of Narco-Terrorism

1) Narco-terrorism describes drug traffickers who engage in terrorist activities to protect their business. Pablo Escobar is an example of this type of narco-terrorist. Under Escobar’s leadership, the Medellin Cartel in Colombia systematically targeted judges, prosecutors, and police, with the goal of furthering the cartel’s cocaine trafficking. Under this type of narco-terrorism, violence is used to further business interests, not ideology.

2) Narco-terrorism also characterizes terrorists who sell narcotics to fund terrorist activities. For example, I investigated a Taliban commander who purchased and resold a multikilogram shipment of heroin to generate funds for the purchase of expensive military weapons. This commander was normally a terrorist, not a trafficker, but he engaged in this profitable heroin deal to facilitate his operations.

3) A less common type of narco-terrorism involves criminals who have an equal interest in both terrorism and drug trafficking. Khan Mohammed, the first person arrested for narco-terrorism, was a successful opium trafficker and also a Taliban operative targeting U.S. troops. Khan Mohammed was both a terrorist and a drug trafficker, motivated by both profit and ideology.

4) The most common type of narco-terrorism is expressed by the symbiotic relationship between drug traffickers and terrorists. In this form, traffickers only deal drugs and terrorists only commit acts of terrorism, but they mutually support each other. Haji Bagcho, the world’s most prolific heroin trafficker, provided drug proceeds, weapons, and logistical assistance to Taliban leadership. In return, the Taliban protected Haji Bagcho’s drug production laboratories, attacked police and military, and murdered people cooperating with the government. The Taliban and Haji Bagcho’s organization committed different crimes, but they both engaged in narco-terrorism.

There are other variations of narco-terrorism. State-sponsored drug trafficking, by a government using terrorism as an instrument of national policy, may be considered narco-terrorism. Another variation is when drug trafficking by itself is used as a form of terrorism. Khan Mohammed said, “May God eliminate them (infidels) right now and we will eliminate them too. Whether it is by opium or by shooting, this is our common goal.”

Why it’s Important

A significant percentage of the world’s terrorist organizations are tied to drug trafficking. In 2016, the DEA determined that 22 of 59 designated terrorist organizations were involved with narcotics. That is 37 percent of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations and it doesn’t even address two groups officially designated in 2016. The percentage of terrorist organizations associated with drug trafficking is likely much higher than 37 percent, because many groups engaging in terrorist activities are not officially designated as terrorist groups by the State Department. The Afghan Taliban is one example of an undesignated terrorist group, which is heavily involved in drug trafficking.

Terrorism is an existential threat to the United States and is a priority in our national policy. Drug trafficking directly supports terrorism and counterterrorism efforts can’t be effective if the funding is ignored. Apart from the connection to terrorism, drug trafficking alone damages the rule of law and destabilizes countries. Directing intelligence and enforcement efforts towards narco-terrorism has the dual benefit of targeting both traffickers and terrorists.

Using the narco-terrorism law to arrest terrorists and the traffickers who support them is an effective tool for incapacitating both types of criminals. Prosecuting narco-terrorists in the judicial system allows transparency in the process and provides a long-term solution for two of the most serious threats to our national security.

Jeffrey James Higgins is a retired DEA supervisory special agent and expert in narco-terrorism. 

To defeat terrorism, the United States should use federal criminal laws to aggressively target narco-terrorists. While narco-terrorism is frequently mentioned in the news, it is rarely explained properly, and as a result, many skeptics doubt its impact. Understanding how drug trafficking fuels terrorism is necessary to craft effective counterterrorism policy and to triumph in the global war on terror.

Narco-terrorism describes the nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism. This term covers a wide spectrum of behavior, but there are four primary types of narco-terrorism. As a special agent with the DEA, I investigated narco-terrorism for over a decade. After the narco-terrorism law was enacted in 2006, I made the first, precedent-setting arrest for narco-terrorism and I was the case agent for the first two narco-terrorism convictions. The link between narcotics trafficking and terrorism is significant and has been repeatedly proven in court.

The Basics

The crime of narco-terrorism is prosecuted under Title 21 US Code 960a — Foreign Terrorist Organizations, Terrorist Persons, and Groups. To summarize, it is illegal for anyone to violate federal drug law then provide anything of pecuniary value to a person or organization engaging in terrorist activity or terrorism.

Federal drug laws, as defined under 21 USC 841, cover the possession, manufacture, and distribution of controlled substances, which meet a minimum weight threshold. Terrorist activity, as defined in 8 USC 1182, includes crimes such as hijacking, assassination, kidnapping, and use of weapons of mass destruction. Terrorism is defined, under 22 USC 2656, as politically motivated violence against noncombatants. So, narco-terrorism can involve people engaged in terrorist acts or those belonging to groups designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. Department of State.

Four Types of Narco-Terrorism

1) Narco-terrorism describes drug traffickers who engage in terrorist activities to protect their business. Pablo Escobar is an example of this type of narco-terrorist. Under Escobar’s leadership, the Medellin Cartel in Colombia systematically targeted judges, prosecutors, and police, with the goal of furthering the cartel’s cocaine trafficking. Under this type of narco-terrorism, violence is used to further business interests, not ideology.

2) Narco-terrorism also characterizes terrorists who sell narcotics to fund terrorist activities. For example, I investigated a Taliban commander who purchased and resold a multikilogram shipment of heroin to generate funds for the purchase of expensive military weapons. This commander was normally a terrorist, not a trafficker, but he engaged in this profitable heroin deal to facilitate his operations.

3) A less common type of narco-terrorism involves criminals who have an equal interest in both terrorism and drug trafficking. Khan Mohammed, the first person arrested for narco-terrorism, was a successful opium trafficker and also a Taliban operative targeting U.S. troops. Khan Mohammed was both a terrorist and a drug trafficker, motivated by both profit and ideology.

4) The most common type of narco-terrorism is expressed by the symbiotic relationship between drug traffickers and terrorists. In this form, traffickers only deal drugs and terrorists only commit acts of terrorism, but they mutually support each other. Haji Bagcho, the world’s most prolific heroin trafficker, provided drug proceeds, weapons, and logistical assistance to Taliban leadership. In return, the Taliban protected Haji Bagcho’s drug production laboratories, attacked police and military, and murdered people cooperating with the government. The Taliban and Haji Bagcho’s organization committed different crimes, but they both engaged in narco-terrorism.

There are other variations of narco-terrorism. State-sponsored drug trafficking, by a government using terrorism as an instrument of national policy, may be considered narco-terrorism. Another variation is when drug trafficking by itself is used as a form of terrorism. Khan Mohammed said, “May God eliminate them (infidels) right now and we will eliminate them too. Whether it is by opium or by shooting, this is our common goal.”

Why it’s Important

A significant percentage of the world’s terrorist organizations are tied to drug trafficking. In 2016, the DEA determined that 22 of 59 designated terrorist organizations were involved with narcotics. That is 37 percent of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations and it doesn’t even address two groups officially designated in 2016. The percentage of terrorist organizations associated with drug trafficking is likely much higher than 37 percent, because many groups engaging in terrorist activities are not officially designated as terrorist groups by the State Department. The Afghan Taliban is one example of an undesignated terrorist group, which is heavily involved in drug trafficking.

Terrorism is an existential threat to the United States and is a priority in our national policy. Drug trafficking directly supports terrorism and counterterrorism efforts can’t be effective if the funding is ignored. Apart from the connection to terrorism, drug trafficking alone damages the rule of law and destabilizes countries. Directing intelligence and enforcement efforts towards narco-terrorism has the dual benefit of targeting both traffickers and terrorists.

Using the narco-terrorism law to arrest terrorists and the traffickers who support them is an effective tool for incapacitating both types of criminals. Prosecuting narco-terrorists in the judicial system allows transparency in the process and provides a long-term solution for two of the most serious threats to our national security.

Jeffrey James Higgins is a retired DEA supervisory special agent and expert in narco-terrorism. 



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