ORLANDO, Fla. - A bill is headed to the Gov. Rick Scott’s desk that would give the Florida Department of Law Enforcement almost $6 million to create more counter-terrorism positions.
Channel 9 investigative reporter Karla Ray found out Orlando’s FDLE office has already doubled the size of its domestic terrorism unit, which means cuts to other investigations.
FDLE Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks was one of the first on scene at Pulse nightclub on June 12 as a man was still inside killing 49 people and injuring more than 50 others.
“The responsibility, the role I play in trying to ensure the safety of Orlando moving forward, I take the responsibility of that as a citizen in Central Florida very, very close to heart,” Banks said.
Banks was born and raised in Orlando and rose in the ranks here.
Since Pulse, the Orlando FDLE field office has shifted more resources toward counter-terrorism than any other type of criminal investigation. FLDE has doubled the number of state agents, analysts and support staff focused on a job that has been traditionally led by federal agents.
“The FBI cannot do it all alone, they can’t. They have to be reliant upon support; state and local resources,” Banks said.
As the FBI focused its efforts on investigating Pulse in the weeks following the attack, FDLE counter-terrorism agents led the investigation into a former Orange County Government employee accused of threatening Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Kevin Cunningham wrote, “I’ll rid the state of a corrupt (expletive) with any means I have, firearms, knives, or my bare hands.”
He later told 9 Investigates in an interview, “I never meant it, I’m not a violent person. There is nothing I would do to harm another person.”
Cunningham pleaded guilty to threats to a public servant with a sentence of four years of supervised probation.
However, Banks said the success of other investigations, including possible terror plots, he said his agents have already thwarted aren’t as easy to measure.
“They won’t always come with an arrest,” he said.
Though he won’t say what other types of investigations are suffering, Banks admits the redirection of resources comes at a cost.
“In order to ensure this is a priority mission, we’ve had to carve away from some of our other responsibilities,” Banks said.
Scott is expected to sign off on the additional funding, which would create 46 positions across the state; 37 of these would be for agents.
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