Shooter (2007) stars actors Mark Wahlberg, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, and Danny Glover in this conspiracy action thriller. The film was directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Here’s the premise: When military veteran Bob Lee Swagger, a marksman sniper and trained mercenary, is set up as the person who inadvertently shot and killed the Ethiopian archbishop during an assassination attempt against the President of the United States, Nick Memphis, a rookie FBI agent, is the only one who believes Swagger is innocent. The two men join forces to determine who framed Swagger and why.
Swagger and Memphis set into motion a revenge plan that results in an implausibly high body count. Shooter certainly delivers on its action thriller promise, carrying out one nail-biting car chase and explosive fireball scene after another.
But I write these reviews to present teachable moments about FBI policy and procedures. So, let’s discuss the FBI’s role in an assassination or assassination attempt.
You are, no doubt, aware that the United States Secret Service is responsible for the protection of the President of the United States. But did you know the authority to protect visiting foreign dignitaries, chiefs of state or heads of government is divided between the Department of State’s Office of Security and the Secret Service?
However, after an assault, attempted assault, assassination, or attempted assassination of the President, the FBI immediately assumes jurisdiction for the crime scene and investigation. This responsibility is formalized in 18 U.S. Code § 1751, which insures the agency fighting and confusion that occurred after the assassination of President Kennedy won’t be repeated.
In Shooter, the audience can see an accurate portrayal of how the FBI might handle the assassination investigation and hunt for a fugitive like Swagger. To learn more about how the FBI investigates an attempted assassination, listen to this FBI Retired Case File Review episode:
This big-budget movie was filmed in Philadelphia, and I had the opportunity to work with the production crew, actor Michael Peña, and director Antoine Fuqua during the filming of the assassination scene, which took place on the mall in front of Independence Hall.
FBI Philadelphia Division support employees, along with my middle-school-age twin daughters, were extras in the movie (here we all are with movie director Antoine Fuqua). Also among the group are members of the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force who were technical advisers for the scenes depicting an FBI SWAT team. In a separate photo are SA John Kitzinger, a much younger and thinner me, Philadelphia Police Detective and TFO Andy Adams (RIP), Antoine Fuqua, SA Tom Perzichilli, and Task Force Supervisor Mike Carbonell.
In my role as the media representative for the office, I coordinated FBI Philadelphia’s consultation on the filming of Shooter, along with staff from the FBI’s Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit (IPPAU) at FBI Headquarters. The unit works with screenwriters, authors, and producers seeking authenticity with FBI related projects.
When they were filming the scene where Swagger escapes, I remember fielding calls from the Philadelphia media, asking why FBI helicopters were hovering over Center City. A few reporters were hesitant to believe me when I told them the helicopters, clearly marked with the gold FBI lettering, weren’t real and only part of a movie.