Special Agent Blake Boteler
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Special Agent Blake Boteler as its Officer of the Month for July 2002. Agent Boteler is currently assigned to ATF Headquarters in Washington, DC.
Law enforcement was not Blake Boteler's original career choice. Armed with a degree in geology, he began his career as a petroleum geologist in Oklahoma. His interest in pursuing a law enforcement career was sparked by an explosive and personal incident that forever changed his life.
In February 1986, while getting out of his car, Blake was robbed at gunpoint. He pursued, but then lost the individual, and was unable to positively identify the suspect when questioned by the local police. Boteler decided to conduct his own investigation and an arrest was made three days after the robbery. The authorities quickly learned that the suspect had been previously convicted for other armed robberies, and for whom there were outstanding warrants. Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Bill Weaver stated that Blake's personal risk "...contributed to the successful prosecution of this case."
After this incident, Blake decided to combine his education and fascination with explosives with a career in law enforcement. In February 1987, after completing training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, he began a career with ATF at the field office in Dallas (TX). While there, he served on the special response team, which dealt with the Los Angeles (CA) riots as well as ATF operations at Waco (TX) and Ruby Ridge (ID).
In late 1997, Agent Boteler began what he and his supervisors figured would be a relatively short undercover assignment. In September, ATF officials in Colorado began gathering intelligence on an outlaw motorcycle club, identified as the "Sons of Silence." ATF officials quickly determined that the Sons of Silence were a major crime organization in Colorado with activities as far away as Germany. Further information revealed this group was involved extensively in the illegal possession and sales of firearms and narcotics. Although this outlaw gang had been operating in the area since 1968, no one had been able to obtain sufficient information to arrest and convict any of its members until Agent Boteler volunteered to go undercover to infiltrate the Sons of Silence.
Once accepted by the members, Special Agent Boteler and his partner, Special Agent Darrell Edwards, were able to identify the structure, hierarchy and inner-workings of this organization. Both agents were able to uncover multiple violations of federal firearm statutes as well as purchase evidence from club members. Within a year, Special Agent Boteler was elevated to "prospect" member status within the gang. In August 1998, during a national motorcycle run in Sturgis (SD) Agent Boteler received his patch as a full-fledged member of the Sons of Silence.
As the investigation continued, Agents Boteler and Edwards purchased numerous firearms, including machine guns, and destructive devices from identified weapons traffickers and gathered evidence of probable cause necessary to execute numerous search warrants. Both agents obtained evidence of past firearms transactions as well as the murder involving Sons of Silence members. Special Agent Boteler so successfully convinced the club of his outlaw status that he was elected as an "enforcer" for the Colorado Springs chapter of the Sons of Silence.
What began as an intelligence gathering effort resulted in 51 arrests, the retrieval of over 75 firearms, including twenty fully automatic machine guns, along with numerous semi-automatic assault weapons, pipe bombs and hand grenades. The agents also seized in excess of 10 pounds of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of over $250,000.
Special Agent Boteler has received with numerous awards, including being named the 2000 U.S. Treasury Department Law Enforcement Employee of the Year, however, he states the one he is most proud of is the Certificate of Appreciation he received from "Locks of Love," a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss. Soon after the arrests, Agent Boteler donated the over 12 inches of hair he had grown as part of his undercover disguise.
Although the years he spent undercover were very difficult for his family, he states that putting the gang members behind bars and helping disadvantaged children gave him a sense of satisfaction knowing that he was truly making a difference in our country. Special Agent Boteler states, "what drives me to be successful is that in the end, it's how others view you; your family, co-workers and society in general."