December 6, 2022

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DSS special agents receive “Uncommon Valor” award for security response following assassination of Haitian President – United States Department of State

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In September 2022, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) announced that 11 officers of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) received the FLEOA’s 2021 National Award for Uncommon Valor for defending the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and protecting visiting U.S. government delegations against violent protests in the aftermath of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise on July 7, 2021.

On July 9, 2021, Michael Godson, William Schaefer, Jenny Russell, Sean Haviland, Chris Carolin, and Mateo Benavidez with the DSS Mobile Security Deployments (MSD) crisis response team and Scott Reece, Darren Adler, Torre Smith, Micah Batsell, and Derek Copensky assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince Regional Security Office took up defensive positions at the U.S. Embassy, in response to a crowd of 500 angry protesters who gathered outside the embassy and attempted to scale the perimeter walls. According to the FLEOA award nomination, after clearing the scene, the MSD team provided heavily armed escorts for embassy personnel to return them to their homes safely.

The following day, in addition to providing counterassault coverage for the Ambassador’s motorcade movements, the team provided quick reaction force support for a last-minute visit by a delegation of FBI and DHS senior law enforcement personnel. This visit was the first step in the United States’ bilateral assistance for the Haitian Government’s investigation of the President’s murder.

The award nomination goes on to say, “While the Team executed all these tasks successfully and professionally, it was their actions in support of the visiting U.S. Presidential Delegation (PDEL) the following week for the funeral where their planning, security skills, and decision-making were tested the most.”

On July 23, the Team navigated the U.S. motorcade toward the funeral venue where they encountered numerous attempts by violent protestors to block the roads. Once at the venue, the team observed disorder and the potential for violence, which resulted in the quick extraction of the PDEL from the funeral location, and the safe return of the PDEL to a secure location.

As the law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. Department of State, DSS is charged with protecting department facilities, people, and information. In the days following the assassination of President Moise, the joint efforts of the DSS Mobile Security Deployments crisis response team and the DSS special agents assigned to the U.S. embassy not only fulfilled this mission but exceeded it. As the award nomination notes, “Overcoming major obstacles and mitigating the dangers of a nation in chaos despite great personal risk… ensured the safe and successful conduct of American diplomacy in Haiti.”

DSS has the largest global presence of any U.S. law enforcement organization, operating at more than 270 U.S. diplomatic posts in over 170 countries, and in 32 U.S. cities. The organization is responsible for investigating transnational crimes and for protecting State Department facilities, people, and information.

For more information, contact ds-press@state.gov.

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