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News > OSI works with multiple law enforcement agencies in Germany to put away a terrorist
Briefing the team
Special Agent Chris Scheib answers questions from Bavarian police officials concerning the joint United States-German investigation of the Frankfurt International Airport shooting. Due in large part to the investigative efforts by Air Force Office of Special Investigations agents in Germany, the terrorist responsible for the shooting was convicted to life in prison by a German three-judge panel. (U.S. Air Force photo provided by 5 FIS.)
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OSI works with multiple law enforcement agencies in Germany to put away a terrorist

Posted 8/27/2012   Updated 8/27/2012 Email story   Print story


by Air Force Office of Special Investigations
5th Field Investigations Region

8/27/2012 - OSI HQ QUANTICO, Va. -- Air Force Office of Special Investigations agents found themselves dealing with a seemingly random terrorist act March 2, 2011, when a lone gunman named Arid Uka walked up to a group of Airmen standing by their 'Blue Bird' bus at Frankfurt International Airport, Germany, and opened fire with a 9mm pistol.

Uka, a Kosovo-Albanian born German resident and employee at the airport, became self-radicalized by watching YouTube videos and other jihadist propaganda on the Internet. He began his shooting rampage by shooting two Airmen in the head at point blank range and critically wounded two more while yelling 'Allah Akbar.' He then aimed his pistol at the head of Staff Sgt. Trevor Brewer, an Air Force Security Forces member on the bus, and squeezed the trigger, but nothing happened. Luckily, Uka's pistol malfunctioned. 

Despite having an abundance of ammunition and two knives in his backpack, Uka darted off the bus and attempted to flee through the sprawling Frankfurt airport, the second largest in all of Europe.

Brewer, having just escaped death seconds before, decided to pursue Uka on foot through the airport. Another American citizen working at the airport, Mr. Joseph Conner, was standing outside the terminal taking a break when he heard Brewer's yelling for help.

Brewer and Conner attracted the attention of the German Federal Police (the Bundespolizei) who have the responsibility of providing security at German airports. With their assistance, they apprehended Uka without further incident.

Brewer had just survived what the presiding Frankfurt judge would later call, "The first act of Islamic terrorism on German soil." Not since the Red Army Faction bombing at the USAFE headquarters in 1981 had USAF personnel in Germany been faced with such an attack.
Upon receiving the call that Air Force personnel had been shot, 13th Field Investigations Squadron Special Agents Kelly Ybay, Shannon Bancroft, and several others immediately departed to the airport to provide initial crime scene response and coordinate with German police.

The Frankfurt airport serves as a major hub for DoD personnel entering Europe on civilian air carriers. Many personnel then wait to catch flights via military air to Afghanistan and other locations from the passenger terminal at Ramstein. The Airmen involved in this shooting incident had been doing just that. Since 13 FIS' area of responsibility included Frankfurt, agents were notified by well-established German law enforcement contacts at the airport.

OSI special agents are accustomed to working in and around challenging crime scenes, but they normally have a great deal of control of the environment. The situation that 13 FIS agents encountered at the Frankfurt airport on March 2 was unlike anything they had ever seen. Responding agents described the scene simply as 'chaos.' To compound the confusion, the U.S. Consulate General Frankfurt, the largest U.S. consulate in Europe and possibly the world, received a similar call about the shooting.

Thanks to the first-class, well established, liaison relationships developed by the 13 FIS, German authorities quickly recognized OSI's role and authority in this situation. According to 4 FIS forensic science technician Special Agent Jeffrey Micciche, who also responded to the airport to provide specialized forensic support, German authorities held control of the crime scene until OSI agents arrived to process it.

13 FIS and 4 FIS agents weren't the only OSI personnel working late into the night of March 2 as a result of the Frankfurt shooting. 550 kilometers to the northeast of Frankfurt in the German capital Berlin, Det. 540, a seat of government detachment in the American Embassy, also leaped into action. Serving as OSI's link to German federal-level law enforcement and security authorities and Embassy country team partners to include the FBI and CIA, SOG Germany agents, Special Agent Tracy Bunch and SA Chris Scheib worked high-level coordinations between U.S. Ambassador Phillip Murphy's staff, the FBI Legal Attaché, and Germany's FBI equivalent agency, the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA).

Special Agent Keith Janssen found himself embedded with the FBI LEGAT in Frankfurt and practically lived at the Consulate General for days after the shooting, hammering out critical case updates to 5 FIR via Blackberry and serving as OSI's personal representative during every step of the United States/German investigation in the early days.

Despite the tragic losses to the Air Force family, OSI's Team Deutschland responded as true law enforcement professionals with two very important results: first, they raised the professional stature and reputation of our crime fighting agency with our U.S. and German host nation partners and secondly, and perhaps most importantly, they ensured justice would be served.

Nearly one year after Arid Uka conducted his heinous attack at the Frankfurt Airport, justice was finally served February 10 in a Frankfurt court room. Shortly before 2 p.m. local time, Uka entered the court room in handcuffs wearing cargo pants, a black sweater, and sweatshirt hoodie. A mere 10 minutes later, a German three-judge panel handed down a life sentence for two counts of murder with 'particular graveness of guilt (aggravated circumstances).' With this important characterization, Uka cannot be considered for parole for at least the next 15 years.

"Uka, who maintained an evil, yet child-like, smirk throughout his capital murder trial, looked puzzled after his sentence was read," Scheib said. "The Uka sentencing brought to an end a long and eventful trial, excruciatingly painful for the families of the victims, who made frequent trans-Atlantic voyages to attend the proceedings in Frankfurt."

The lead judge made an emotional, yet straight-forward one-hour statement to the court in which he described Uka as a self-radicalized terrorist, though not a member of a terrorist organization.

After denouncing Uka's act as cowardly, the judge turned to face the family members of one of the deceased Airmen. The judge said the Airmen killed in the shooting were part of an effort that was "responsible for protecting Afghan democracy." The judge praised the Airmen "with the highest respect" and asked the victims' family members not to hold a grudge against Germany or its people and hoped they could someday find peace.

According to Consulate General Frankfurt's Global Affairs unit that monitors such trials in Germany, Uka's life sentence, although not exactly the same as a life sentence in the United States, was the best possible outcome the United States could expect in a German court of law. Specifically, the sentence was much harsher than anticipated because of how the judge characterized Uka as a terrorist.

"This successful joint AFOSI/FBI/BKA investigation and prosecution of Uka is proof positive that OS's Team Deutschland maintains a strong and vibrant liaison relationship with German LE and security services at all levels: local, state, and federal," Scheib said. "It also speaks to the fact that contingency funding applied to liaison purposes is truly 'money well spent' to ensure we have all the right contacts in all the right places to assist us in executing our OSI mission."

According to Scheib, one of the many 'lessons learned' by OSI agents during the Frankfurt shooting was the illustration of how different the German and American systems of crime scene processing, evidence collection, and overall incident response are carried out.

"In an effort to address some of the lessons learned from Frankfurt, Det. 540 and 13 FIS collaborate now more than ever on joint projects with German partners, including a case briefing in July where agents travelled to Bavaria to brief state level law enforcement officials on the challenges posed by the Frankfurt Shooting investigation, as well as the need to conduct more joint training in the future," Scheib said. "The 'traveling road show' as agents are now calling it, was a huge success and is planned to be given in more German states in the future."

Editorial Note: OSI's "Team Deutschland" is composed of members from the 13th Field Investigations Squadron, Det. 501, Ramstein Air Base; Det. 518, Spangdahlem Air Base; 4th Field Investigations Squadron, Vogelweh Cantonment; and Det. 540, Seat of Government Berlin. Special thanks to SA Chris Scheib, who submitted this article.

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