Agent-In-Charge Tim Needle’s POV
Oakland International Airport
Our plane had landed just after four in the afternoon local time, and I still hadn’t been told what the operation was. As our customized transport taxied to a remote section of the airport, I looked over my men with pride. Commanding the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team was the pinnacle of my career in Special Operations, more satisfying than my time in Delta Force. We were the civilian equivalent of military Special Forces, but we were better because we stayed together longer. We trained and operated overseas with Navy Seals, Army Green Berets and Delta Force, Marine Corps Scout Snipers and Air Force Combat Air Controllers. Right now, some of the Training group was in Israel working with a Special Reconnaissance Platoon in how to storm airplanes and buses held by terrorists. The other half of the training group was in England updating parachute assault tactics with the Special Air Service.
The Team was divided into three groups that rotated on a 120-day cycle. One would be in training, one would be in Support, and the third would be Operational. The Operational group was expected to be able to respond anywhere in the continental United States within four hours of a phone call.
That phone call came just after noon today. We were at our headquarters in Quantico, just finishing lunch after morning physical and weapons training. We geared up and were wheels up on the FBI jet in less than thirty minutes.
My Team had been on this rotation for the last four weeks and had deployed to six times. Other than being fooled by the Sons of Tezcatlipoca’s disappearance at their safe house in Florida, we’d had a successful run of missions. Our sniper teams ended a bank robbery turned hostage situation in western Minnesota. Our group supported three hostage situations resulting in peaceful surrenders and arrested a man holding members of a church group hostage without injuries.
I just hoped we’d see some action this time.
The plane came to a stop, and a portable stairway drove over. A man in a suit ran up as soon as they were in place, and the door opened long enough for him to come inside. He was a senior law enforcement agent, but I didn’t recognize him. “Tim Needles, Hostage Rescue Team Leader,” I said as I shook his hand.
“Drug Enforcement Agency Director Frank Grimes, Los Angeles,” he said. “Gather your men; I only want to do this once. I’m going to need complete operational security on this; anyone with a cellphone turns it off and turns it in now. No phone calls are to be made or received by your team. I’m the only contact, and I’m with you until this is over.”
I nodded, leading him to an area in the middle of the plane with a table and multiple computers we used for in-flight briefings. One of my guys collected the phones, putting them in a drawer. Director Grimes pulled some maps out of his briefcase along with a laptop. One of my guys hooked it to the screens, while he spread out a map of a warehouse near the docks in Oakland. “I received a tip this morning that the Sons of Tezcatlipoca’s Bay Area chapter is receiving a large shipment of drugs this evening at the warehouse they own in Oakland,” he said.
“The Sons? Motherfuckers,” one of my guys said.
“You know them?”
“Missed them a week back when they slipped out before we got there. We’re familiar with what they did in Florida,” I said. “I’d love another shot at those sickos. How sure are you of the intelligence?”
“Very high confidence. The tips were credible and specific, and we’ve been able to confirm the ship and the container number that is involved. It is being transported from the docks to their warehouse right now, and the drugs will be transported out tonight. Your team is going to take them down after it arrives.”
He had highlighted the building on the map; it was a typical small warehouse/office building, surrounded by an eight-foot chain-link fence and a small parking lot. There were eight bays on the loading dock, and two big doors for semi-trucks to drive inside to unload. He brought up a file with photographs. “One of my agents is maintaining surveillance on the target. He estimates there are between twelve and twenty Sons inside. Assume all are heavily armed and dangerous. Here’s the warrant,” he said as he handed it over.
Signed less than two hours ago, it was a high-risk warrant since armed resistance was expected. The warrant was to be served if the specified container arrived at the warehouse location. High-risk warrants were a specialty of SWAT teams, and we served these occasionally, but mostly when there were significant numbers of innocent civilians around. “What’s the catch? The DEA has SWAT teams, and Oakland and San Francisco do too. Why bring my team way out here to make a drug bust?”
“The tipster also warned us that local law enforcement was compromised, including the DEA Director in San Francisco and senior people in Customs and local law enforcement. There’s no telling how extensive the penetration by the Sons and their Cartel backers has gone; I couldn’t pass the intel to them if I couldn’t trust them. When I spoke to the DEA Director and Homeland Security this morning about it, they decided to bring in a team that could operate independently and hit hard. That’s why you’re here.” He tossed a list of names on the table; my eyes bugged out when I read it. “In one hour, two MD500 helicopters from Task Force 160 equipped with FRIES will land next to your plane.”
My eyebrow raised; Task Force 160 was the Army’s elite Special Aviation Operations unit out of Kentucky. The helicopters were fast and quiet, and the Fast-Rope Insertion/Extraction System was perfect for landing six men on a rooftop in seconds. We’d trained with them a few months ago, and this gave me options.
We spent that hour going over the photographs, the floor plans, and the surrounding area. We were lucky in that the surrounding buildings would be deserted at the late hour, and it was a new moon. We would be able to take advantage of the darkness.
The helicopters landed, and the pilots came over and briefed while their birds were being fueled. A tour bus also pulled up; Frank had rented it with his credit card, telling the company it was taking a bachelor party group into town. I had to hand it to him; he’d kept things tight.
My plan was simple, and the eight men I was sending on the helicopter left with the pilots. The rest of us walked onto the tour bus. Frank had given the driver an extra five hundred to ignore what he saw and just drive; his radio had been disabled, and he’d turned over his cell phone. He didn’t even tell the driver the destination; he just gave him directions.
We did our communications and weapons checks before we entered the industrial area. The bus stopped four times in the darkness, dropping off teams blocks away from the target. When they were all gone, I looked over at Frank while I watched the body cams of my team leaders on my laptop screen. “How bad do you think this will be?”
“They’re armed heavily, violent and facing life in prison,” he said. “If we have the element of surprise, it could go well.” He left unsaid the other part.
One by one, the teams checked reported they were in position. The helicopters were circling over the bay, two minutes out. I did one last roll call.
“Sniper one, ready.”
“Sniper two, ready.
“Sniper three, ready.”
“Team Alpha, ready.
“Air One, ready.”
“Air Two, ready.”
Everything was in place. “Teams Alpha through Charlie, advance and cut fences.” It was common for defenders to focus on the main gates of a building, so we avoided that. There were two fire doors in the back and one off the east side by the offices; we would enter via those.
“Thirty seconds to target,” Air One reported. I looked out towards the bay; the helicopters were blacked out, and I could barely see them and the four men hanging from ropes below it as they approached.
At ten seconds, the teams pushed through the fencing and ran in a line towards their respective doors. Explosive charges were placed on the locks and they hugged the building, the breacher holding the detonator. “Three, two, one, GO GO GO,” I said.
Three explosions occurred almost simultaneously, and the doors were blown open. The three teams rushed in, the point men throwing flash-bang grenades to disorient anyone nearby with the light and the deafening noise. At the same time, the two helicopters flew in, men dangling from the ropes. They shot out the upstairs office windows before crashing through, releasing the ropes as they rolled into the office space.
Five seconds had elapsed and all my teams were inside the building. The ‘brrrt’ sound of the fully-automatic HK MP5 submachine guns mixed with the sound of pistol and assault rifle fire. I watched as the teams blazed through the warehouse, killing or subduing men until there were no more threats. “CEASE FIRE,” the Team Alpha leader said as the last two men surrendered.
“Report,” I said.
It was better than I had hoped. As the teams reported in, we had killed thirteen and arrested eight, four of whom were injured. My team was relatively unscathed; one agent had a grazing gunshot wound to his calf, and another took two pistol rounds to his body armor and was badly bruised. “Good job. Gather the prisoners out front for transport.”
The first contact with local law enforcement was when Director Grimes called 911 and reported the raid. We walked the three blocks to the building, beating the first cop there by a good thirty seconds. “Boss, you gotta see this,” the Team B leader said over the radio.
“I’ll be there in a minute,” I said. The police were starting to arrive, and I left the Director to talk to them. The patrol officers gave way to Sergeants, the Sergeants to Lieutenants, and Lieutenants to the Deputy Chiefs and the local FBI Field Office Director. Director Grimes thanked them for coming, handed them the warrant and had the FBI men transport the prisoners to jail or the hospital. They were all pissed about not being given prior notification and wanted in on credit for the bust.
I didn’t care about the credit; we knew what we had done. I finally got inside to see what they were talking about.
The shipping container was open, and about three dozen plastic 55-gallon drums of what was labeled “Avacado Oil” were inside. We’d interrupted their sorting operation; they were about halfway through based on the cut-open barrels off to the side. “Looks like we the tip was good, boss,” a grinning agent said as he wiped Avacado oil off of his arms. There was a pile of cocaine blocks, wrapped kilo-sized packets in one area. Another contained baggies full of pills, while a third area contained plastic bags of Fentanyl. The DEA would have a field day with this haul.
We didn’t stick around to see what all they seized in the bust; my men loaded back onto the bus, and we celebrated the successful mission on the way back to the airport. Director Grimes sat in front, mostly on the phone. He didn’t look happy. We were entering the airport when I walked up and sat across from him as he finished a call. “Nice working with you, Mr. Grimes,” I said as I held my hand out.
“I should be thanking you, Tim. Your men did a great job tonight.”
“You don’t seem too happy about it.”
He shook his head. “We had wiretaps on the San Francisco DEA Director and the other law enforcement agents based on the tip we got,” he said. “Four minutes after the bust began, the DEA Director got a call from one of the Sons. They were furious that he didn’t warn them.”
I couldn’t imagine what he was feeling; the betrayal would be overwhelming. “We started pulling the weeds tonight; it’s going to take a while to finish the whole garden. Take some time to enjoy this moment; they don’t come often enough.”
“Thanks, Tim.” The bus came to a stop by the charter terminal, and he grabbed his briefcase and stood up. “You men did a hell of a job tonight. Thank you.” My guys cheered and thanked him.
He walked off and was gone.