An unfortunate incident occurred during a training exercise at a federal gun range in Phoenix, Arizona, where an IRS agent accidentally shot and killed a colleague. The incident took place at a range operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and was being used by multiple federal agencies at the time of the shooting. The IRS Criminal Investigation Division’s (CID) Phoenix Field Office confirmed the incident but did not disclose the names of those involved. The victim was pronounced dead at HonorHealth Deer Valley Medical Center.
The FBI’s field office in Phoenix is currently investigating the shooting, and the results will be passed on to the District Attorney for Arizona for review and potential charges, according to a statement from the agency. This incident marks the first time an IRS CID employee has been shot in the line of duty, as reported by the Officer Down Memorial Page, a website that tracks law enforcement line-of-duty deaths. IRS CID agents are sworn law enforcement officers and undergo firearms training as part of their job requirements.
The incident comes amidst controversial legislation passed in 2021 that provided the IRS with nearly $80 billion in funding to hire up to 87,000 new agents over the next decade, effectively doubling its current size. There have been calls to repeal the legislation, with concerns raised by some representatives in the Republican-dominated House about the potential for an army of armed accountants. However, the repeal effort is unlikely to become law given its support from the ruling Democratic Party.
Supporters of the measure argue that the funding not only covers hiring expenses but also addresses non-hiring costs and the replacement of retiring or soon-to-retire agents. Additionally, some of the new hires will be responsible for tasks such as phone work and typical accounting duties, rather than law enforcement roles.
Nevertheless, an IRS CID job posting attracted attention after it went viral, as it explicitly stated that new recruits must be willing to use deadly force and face life-threatening situations. Furthermore, the IRS spent over half a million dollars of its 2021 funding to purchase ammunition, exceeding its usual annual expenditure within just three months.
Although the Biden administration assured the public that individuals earning less than $400,000 per year would not be audited by the IRS’ new agents, legislation to legally enforce this promise did not pass. The legislation aimed to protect low- and middle-income American taxpayers from an influx of audits by the newly-funded IRS auditors.
The tragic shooting incident has raised questions and concerns about the expansion of the IRS and the level of firepower entrusted to its agents. As the investigation unfolds, it remains to be seen whether any changes will be made to the training procedures or policies regarding the use of firearms within the agency.