April 24th, 2007 08:37 EST
FBI, Indonesia Ambush Victim Honored
The day that began with an impulsive escape to a picnic in a field of orchids in 2002 was the day everything changed for Patsy Spier. The former Peace Corps volunteer who for years taught oversees with her husband was returning from the August 30 outing in a caravan with eight other Americans in Papua, Indonesia, when gunmen suddenly opened fire on their SUVs.
Three people were killed, including Patsy’s husband, Rick. Patsy suffered gunshot and shrapnel wounds and was evacuated to Australia with the other survivors. Her story of resilience and unyielding determination to bring about justice and help others was recognized Monday at FBI Headquarters when Director Robert S. Mueller presented Patsy Spier with the “Strength of the Human Spirit Award,” created specifically for her by our Office for Victim Assistance.
About a month after the ambush, Patsy returned to the U.S., still healing but determined to hold the attackers accountable. When an FBI agent arrived at her Colorado home about 50 days after the attack to interview her as part of his investigation, she was impressed. The agent had been to the crime scene, seen the evidence, interviewed other witnesses, and done his homework. He didn’t need the big picture—just what she saw and experienced.
“He brought information out,” Patsy said, recalling how “her agent,” as she regards him, teased critical potential leads from what seemed to like innocuous information. “From that point on I knew that if anyone was going to find the people who did this it was going to be this guy.”
Until that point, she’d felt helpless. She told and retold her story, but now there was someone who could help. “I felt like a burden had been lifted and I wasn’t alone,” she said.
The Office for Victim Assistance was created to provide that same sense of support following crimes requiring FBI involvement. Victim specialists make sure victims are counseled, fed, medically treated, housed, and made aware of their rights and the potential legal landscapes that lay ahead. Recent deployments of victim specialists include the Red Lake school shooting in 2005 and the mass murders by a gunman last week at Virginia Tech.
Patsy’s award also commemorates National Crime Victims Rights Week, which was created 27 years ago by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The strength of spirit Patsy demonstrated after the murders of her husband and friends, and her own injuries, was a constant source of inspiration to our special agents,” Director Mueller said Monday.
Over the years, Patsy frequently contacted agents working the case, providing them updates and receiving encouragement that the case was still a priority. She pressed members of Congress and the White House to consider the 2002 ambush in their ongoing matters of diplomacy with Indonesia. Her visit this week marked her 27th trip to Washington, D.C. related to the 2002 attack. Patsy was also honored last week by the Justice Department with a Special Courage Award.
“She has been steadfast in her support for the FBI’s investigative efforts,” Mueller said. “And when they needed it most, she lent her strength to other victims. I can think of no more worthy honoree.”
In 2004, a Papuan separatist was charged with leading the ambush and murders. He was sentenced to life in prison last November.
Along with others, Spier’s experience has been incorporated into a new DVD that will become a part of the training regimen for special agents at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.