For anyone under 50 who remembers, “The Six Million Dollar Man” was a TV series in the 1970s about the heroic exploits of a bionic superhero named Steve Austin.
Austin, recalled Rick Sandoval on Tuesday, went on peacekeeping missions for a little-known outfit called the Office of Scientific Intelligence.
Sandoval once thought an OSI agency didn’t exist. All that changed when Sandoval actually worked for five years as a special agent assigned to an OSI — Office of Special Intelligence — with the U.S. Air Force.
“It was with the Department of Defense,” Sandoval said ruefully. “It kept a real low profile.”
Sandoval shared those recollections and others as his retirement as assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Imperial County draws near.
Although Sandoval wasn’t set to step down until the end of May, he decided to leave the post early. Sandoval’s last day is Friday.
Having helmed the Imperial Valley office since 2003, the year the Department of Homeland Security was first formed, Sandoval, 56, said he’ll miss the camaraderie he’s had with all local branches of law enforcement.
He also takes pride at how the office now has 100 case agents.
“It’s unlike anywhere else,” Sandoval said.
Of the cases that stand out in Sandoval’s mind is that involving the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar, who died in January 2008 while on duty at the Andrade Port of Entry, Sandoval said.
“That stands out for me,” Sandoval said.
What also stands out in Sandoval’s mind was the passing of his son Frank, an Army sergeant who died after suffering critical injuries he received in Iraq, Sandoval said.
Imperial County District Attorney Gilbert Otero said Sandoval’s departure from the local Homeland Security office will be a huge loss.
Like Sandoval, Otero praised the camaraderie all agencies have in the county but noted that Sandoval was an official whose commitment to the law enforcement profession endeared him to many.
“He’s a good guy. He really went to bat for the Valley,” Otero said of his friend. “To say that he will be missed would be an understatement.”
Staff Writer Silvio J. Panta can be reached at 760-337-3442 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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