IRS Agent Fatally Shot During Firing Range Training

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
August 18, 2023US News
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IRS Agent Fatally Shot During Firing Range Training
The IRS building in Washington on Sept. 28, 2020. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

An agent with the Internal Revenue Service field office in Phoenix, Arizona, was fatally shot on Thursday during routine training at a firing range.

Charlotte M. Dennis, a spokesperson for the IRS Phoenix field office, confirmed special agents were participating in the exercise at a firing range when the shooting happened. She did not specify the exact circumstances of the fatal shooting.

The agent, whose name has not yet been released, was taken to the HonorHealth Deer Valley Medical Center but died shortly after arriving.

No other injuries were reported. It’s unclear if investigators have identified who fired the fatal shot.

IRS agents were training at a firing range operated by the Bureau of Prisons. The facility, located at the Federal Correctional Institution, Phoenix hosts various federal agencies as part of an interagency agreement

The FBI’s Phoenix field office is now investigating the incident and has vowed to be “methodical and thorough” with its review.

“To preserve the integrity and capabilities of the investigation, details of the ongoing process will not be released,” the FBI said in a press statement it released on Thursday evening. “Findings of the FBI investigation will be turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona for review.”

IRS Arming Up

While it remains unclear why the IRS agent who was fatally shot in Phoenix on Thursday was taking part in range training, it’s not unheard of for tax agents to be armed. The IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) unit is one component of the federal tax enforcement agency whose special agents do routinely carry firearms, as their work entails investigating criminal enterprises and can be dangerous.

The Inflation Reduction Act, which Democrats passed last year along party lines in both the House and Senate, included $80 billion in additional funding for the IRS over the next decade. This April, IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel confirmed that the agency plans to put some of this new funding toward hiring more armed agents. The IRS-CI unit currently has around 2,100 agents. Mr. Werfel specifically said he wants the agency to bring on 360 new armed IRS-CI agents each year for the next five years, anticipating a net gain of 1,200 IRS-CI agents after accounting for retirements and other attrition factors.

The activities of armed IRS agents have recently drawn scrutiny from Republican lawmakers.

In June, Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mon.) alleged armed IRS agents took part in a raid of a gun shop in Great Falls, Montana, along with members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Mr. Rosendale alleged IRS agents also seized all of the store’s federal firearm purchase records, known as form 4473s.

Dozens of armed IRS agents also reportedly raided a business in Stuart, Florida, in July.

Mr. Rosendale introduced legislation at the end of June, which he dubbed the “Why Does the IRS Need Guns Act,” that would prohibit the IRS from purchasing more guns and ammunition, and require the agency to auction of its existing stockpiles of guns and ammunition to Federal Firearms License (FFL) holders, with proceeds to go toward paying down the national deficit. His bill would also transfer responsibility for investigating and prosecuting criminal tax violations over to the Department of Justice.

Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) also wrote a letter (pdf) to Mr. Werfel in July, expressing her own concern about the apparent “militarization” of his agency.

“While I recognize the Criminal Investigation division has a law enforcement role, recent reports have indicated that the IRS has made substantial purchases of weaponry and tactical gear,” Ms. Bice wrote. “As a civilian agency whose stated mission is to “Provide America’s taxpayers top-quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all,” the increasing militarization of the IRS is of growing concern.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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