Special Agent Jude A. Tanella
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Special Agent Jude A. Tanella of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as its Officer of the Month for September 2005.
Self defense is a tool taught at every level of law enforcement training. From the most basic throws and holds to advanced martial arts, these skills are mastered and honed by the officers who risk their lives every day out on the street. Self defense skills are especially essential for undercover officers as well as officers caught out in the field without backup. Unfortunately, there are times when trying to defend ones self, an officer may have no other option but to take the life of a suspect. Such is the case of undercover Special Agent Jude A. Tanella.
By 2002 Special Agent Tanella had served with the Drug Enforcement Administration for seven years and was assigned to the New York City Field Division. On May 1st of that year, Agent Tanella's drug and weapons surveillance squad received information from a reliable informant. A drug dealer had offered to sell three kilos of cocaine to the informant and wanted to purchase weapons as well. The DEA set up surveillance and once the dealer arrived and it was confirmed that the cocaine was present, the arrest operation commenced.
Realizing that he was surrounded by federal agents, the suspect viciously tried to escape. He rammed his car into the DEA cars on the scene and then fled, leading the agents on a high speed chase. Through the streets and onto the sidewalks, the fleeing suspect narrowly missed several people including a mother and her 2 year-old child. The car chase ended when the suspect finally crashed his vehicle to the point of inoperability.
Refusing to give up, the drug dealer took off on foot with Special Agent Tanella, an avid runner, in hot pursuit. Agent Tanella finally caught up to the suspect and tackled him, roughly a mile from the scene of the crash. Agent Tanella then began in a fight for his life.
After being tackled, the drug dealer discarded the bag of cocaine under a car and began to engage Agent Tanella. A long and brutal hand-to-hand battle ensued with the dealer having a distinct advantage over the smaller Agent Tanella. As one witness stated, the drug dealer was getting the best of Agent Tanella repeatedly screaming that he was going to kill him. The suspect grabbed for the agent's weapon and in the melee Agent Tanella was forced to fire one round that ended the fight and ultimately led to the drug dealer's death.
As incredible as it may sound, the local district attorney filed charges against Agent Tanella. When the case was heard 18 months later, testimony of eye witnesses and the suspect's fingerprints on the bag of cocaine led the judge to rule in the agent's favor. Heard in federal court, the judge stated that Agent Tanella "demonstrated restraint, sound judgment and courage in the proper exercise of his sworn duty to protect the public". He concluded that the indictments against Agent Tanella were "ill-advised prosecution".
The recipient of several awards and commendations, in 2002 alone, Agent Tanella received the DEA Administrator's Award for Public Service, the DEA Special Act or Service Award, the International Narcotics Officers Association's Medal of Valor and the International Narcotics Officers Association's Special Award of Honor. He is a member of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and the International Narcotics Officers Association. Special Agent Tanella is married and continues to serve his country and his community by doing the job he loves.