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ICE Long Beach shootout: As immigration cauldron boils, ICE agents buckle

The Long Beach, Calif., shooting that left one Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent dead and another wounded comes as the Obama administration has moved to improve morale among embattled ICE agents.

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A Homeland Security police car parked outside the Federal Courthouse in Long Beach, Calif. Friday. On Thursday a gunman shot another agent who was then shot and killed by a third agent. The shooting was over an unspecified disciplinary matter.

Nick Ut/AP

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The internecine shootout that ended with one Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent dead and another critically wounded in Long Beach, Calif., on Thursday comes on the heels of an Obama administration effort to relieve dysfunction and morale problems within a frontline agency tasked with enforcing the nation's border laws.

The shootings came during an apparent counseling session between ICE supervisor Kevin Kozak and a lower-ranking supervisor, Agent Esequiel “Zeke” Garcia, where a third agent was in the room as a witness. During the hearing, Mr. Garcia allegedly drew his service weapon and shot Mr. Kozak six times. The third agent drew his weapon and killed Garcia.

ICE Director John Morton flew to Long Beach Friday to meet with the wounded ICE supervisor and the agent who killed Garcia.

"Both of these men came to work yesterday never imagining if they would literally be fighting for their lives, but that is exactly what in fact happened, and they were tested in a very dangerous way and showed incredible fortitude," Mr. Morton said.

Morton's response to the deadly, puzzling drama is the latest attempt to confront problems rooted in the agency's creation in 2003, when it was formed as a merger between U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

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