A federal agent shot and killed while questioning a passenger on an Amtrak train in Arizona was remembered Friday as a venerated leader and mentor with an unparalleled work ethic.
Dozens of family, friends and colleagues filled Calvary Chapel in Tucson to honor Michael Garbo, a longtime Drug Enforcement Administration group supervisor.
He was part of a regional task force of DEA agents and local police inspecting baggage Monday at the train station in downtown Tucson when the shooting erupted. Officers were searching for illegal drugs, weapons or money in the car of a train from Los Angeles bound for New Orleans.
Authorities say a passenger opened fire on Garbo and another agent when they re-entered the car to question him, having been alerted to large packages of marijuana found inside a bag.
Garbo was pronounced dead at the scene. The other agent and a Tucson police officer suffered several gunshot wounds and continue to recover in the hospital.
DEA administrator Anne Milgram credited Garbo’s leadership for their survival.
“It is why other members of the public — passengers and crew on that Amtrak train — were not harmed. I am so deeply grateful for Mike Garbo’s service,” Milgram said.
The former Nashville police officer joined the DEA in 2005. His career as a special agent pursuing drug traffickers took him to Arizona, Afghanistan and then back to Arizona by 2011.
People from all levels of law enforcement echoed the same sentiments over and over, that everyone wanted “to be like Mike.” Current and former colleagues spoke of how Garbo always was the first one in and the last one out on an operation. Yet, as a member of a task force, he never tried to hog the spotlight.
“He had an undying passion for arresting the bad guys,” said Apolonio “Polo” Ruiz, Jr., assistant special agent in charge of the DEA's Phoenix Field Office. “He never ever took sole credit for his successes. He would always tell me, ‘No, it was my team that did it.’”
Garbo was also eulogized as a devoted family man who lit up when talking about his wife and his teenage daughter.
“I hope you will know that we know he did not serve alone. His sacrifice is your sacrifice,” U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in remarks directed to Garbo’s family. “Today we honor a hero who gave his life in service of his country and his community. We will not forget him.”
The passenger who fatally shot Garbo was killed in a gunfight with other officers. Another man seated with him was arrested for knowingly possessing and intending to distribute drugs.