North Tonawanda High School social studies teacher Peter Fezer loves to bring in guest speakers to talk to his students. He was thrilled that ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) Special Agent Gerry O'Sullivan and his K9, Dolly, agreed to spend some time talking to his students.
"He is here to talk to students about federal jobs and opportunities and his own career path and experiences," said Fezer.
ATF is a law enforcement agency in the United States Department of Justice that protects communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products.
O'Sullivan said he was flattered to be asked.
"Mr. Fezer said he would like a positive role model to come in and talk to the students about careers and how to stay on the right path," O'Sullivan said.
O'Sullivan said he was a local boy, born and raised in the area. "I went to high school in Tonawanda and went to college in Buffalo. I got into the Secret Service and started in the uniform division. I was assigned to the White House and worked under President George H.W. Bush for a few years and then I lateralled out to the Secret Service agent position, investigations in the Washington, D.C., area. I worked there for a while and transferred over to the ATF and have been there since 1992. I like the mission. It is an important mission - violent crime, gangs, guns, drugs and explosives. We target those investigations."
In 2002, he got into K9. He is now partnered with his ATF partner, Dolly, who is his second K9. She is trained to detect explosives, firearms and shell casings at shooting scenes.
"She is a phenomenal tool to have in my tool bag. She is going to retire next year, but she is a phenomenal working dog," O'Sullivan said.
Dolly will be living with O'Sullivan after she retires. "She is like my child; I am not giving her up."
He talked to the students about different things that happened in his career and held the students riveted about one very famous case, the Boston Marathon bombing. The event happened on April 15, 2013, where two homemade bombs detonated 12 seconds and 210 yards apart near the finish line of the annual Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring several hundred others, including 16 who lost limbs.
"I was on my way to coach my daughters softball game and I got a call from work to report immediately. I raced to the site and with Dolly found many pieces of the backpack and the post blast debris at one of the sites," O'Sullivan said.
He also became involved in the police chase of the two suspects, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, which he told the students involved the suspects shooting at the police and throwing bombs. Once the surviving brother, Dzhokhar, abandoned the car, O'Sullivan, a Boston police officer and Dolly had to approach it and look for explosives. They discovered a bomb.
"I am not going to lie. It was very frightening," he told the students.
At the end of his presentation, all the students shook his hand. "I am very grateful to Agent O'Sullivan for talking to the students and for his service to our country," said Fezer.
O'Sullivan and Dolly (center) with students from Peter Fezer's social studies class.