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Old 02-15-2020, 10:46 AM   #131
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Default Re: US Law Enforcement Response, Time, Scale and Coordination (Galveston, TX)

Something that may be of use to you - when trying to look up more information on the four possible Texas Law Enforcement representatives you mentioned, I came across this article, and later this biography, about the longest-serving Ranger currently still serving (he's currently in Jasper, which isn't terribly far from Galveston, and checking the Wayback Machine indicates he was stationed there back in December of 2018 as well; note he's 68 at the time of the campaign, but still serving). In addition to apparently being a certified badass, he's also a Vietnam War veteran, a hypnotist, and was involved in some capacity in the investigation of the Galveston Killing Fields. His biography indicates he joined the Rangers in 1981 (conveniently, right around the time magic started seeping back into the world), has been involved in nearly every type of case - "murder, robbery, rape, kidnapping, and on and on" - and has been present at no fewer than 3 incidents where the suspect opted for suicide over arrest. That's in our world; in your world with a supernaturally-boosted murder and suicide rate, he's likely seen even more. "Ranger Joe" seems a strong contender for someone in law enforcement who has pierced the Facade, and some degree of connection to Kessler is certainly possible. While he's further away than the Rangers in Houston, I don't think it would be out of the question for him to be brought in for the Galveston investigation. He could certainly be another ally for the PC's (or a complication, if he isn't associated with Kessler).
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Old 02-15-2020, 11:04 AM   #132
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Default Re: US Law Enforcement Response, Time, Scale and Coordination (Galveston, TX)

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Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
Something that may be of use to you - when trying to look up more information on the four possible Texas Law Enforcement representatives you mentioned, I came across this article, and later this biography, about the longest-serving Ranger currently still serving (he's currently in Jasper, which isn't terribly far from Galveston, and checking the Wayback Machine indicates he was stationed there back in December of 2018 as well; note he's 68 at the time of the campaign, but still serving). In addition to apparently being a certified badass, he's also a Vietnam War veteran, a hypnotist, and was involved in some capacity in the investigation of the Galveston Killing Fields. His biography indicates he joined the Rangers in 1981 (conveniently, right around the time magic started seeping back into the world), has been involved in nearly every type of case - "murder, robbery, rape, kidnapping, and on and on" - and has been present at no fewer than 3 incidents where the suspect opted for suicide over arrest. That's in our world; in your world with a supernaturally-boosted murder and suicide rate, he's likely seen even more. "Ranger Joe" seems a strong contender for someone in law enforcement who has pierced the Facade, and some degree of connection to Kessler is certainly possible. While he's further away than the Rangers in Houston, I don't think it would be out of the question for him to be brought in for the Galveston investigation. He could certainly be another ally for the PC's (or a complication, if he isn't associated with Kessler).
Yeah, thanks!

Note that Ranger Joe Haralson has lived in Texas City since 1981, literally less than ten miles from Galveston. His children grew up in Galveston County and he's been working with the Galveston County Sheriff's Office for 37 years.

In fact, Ranger Joe was on the scene of the ambush of the prisoner transport within half an hour (because he had the weekend off and was at home, instead of in Jasper). And apparently knew both Mr. Alexandre and Kessler very well, as he was closeted with them for a long time after he visited the Penemue in the aftermath.

The Aqueronte was also stopped about ten miles away from Haralson's home, but that happened on the evening on the next day and Haralson was still at work, looking for the suspects of previous night's attack. He was actually two hours north of Galveston at the time of the second incident and operating on far too little sleep. He'll be at the port when Aqueronte is brought there, wherever that is done (the PCs want Galveston, the feds will want Houston).
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Old 02-16-2020, 02:58 AM   #133
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Default Re: What Happens to the PCs?

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Legally, the PCs are actually technically in the clear.
It seems to me that the excluded agencies will be looking for a reason why the PCs did what they did. If they are satisfied with "they're adrenalin junkies who really didn't want to be excluded from the bust", which is after all a real thing that happens, then they don't need to go further.
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Old 02-16-2020, 05:05 AM   #134
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Default Re: What Happens to the PCs?

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It seems to me that the excluded agencies will be looking for a reason why the PCs did what they did. If they are satisfied with "they're adrenalin junkies who really didn't want to be excluded from the bust", which is after all a real thing that happens, then they don't need to go further.
Yes, but the situation is still fraught with risk.

Remember, 21 people died. Most of those people were, judging from the evidence on the scene, probably bad dudes. But not all of them can be proven to have been dangerous criminals currently holding a weapon. Indeed, people who were clearly unarmed also died, as did people who appear to have been more victims than perpetrators. Even if everyone who died had been certified, 100% dyed-in-the-wool unrepentant villain bent on mass murder and this could somehow be proven, law enforcement is not supposed to use tactics that result in suspect deaths if other methods might have allowed them to arrest the suspects.

If the PCs give answers that satisfy the feds that they are simply reckless adrenaline junky Reserve Deputies in a two-bit, small-town, Sheriff's Office that really, really, really didn't want to miss a chance to play cut-rate Navy SEALs and board a ship full of 'pirates'*, those answers might also be used against them in wrongful death suits or even criminal proceedings.

If sufficiently irate, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michel, especially if he can convince the senior Supervisory Deputy US Marshal of the GCVOFTF, could easily make the case that if not for the reckless actions of three Reserve Deputies of the Galveston County Sheriff's Office, a coordinated tactical operation conducted by all the concerned agencies once the Aqueronte had docked in Houston could have arrested the entire crew without a firefight that killed 21 people. He could argue that the crew only resisted because there was not sufficiently overwhelming force present to deter them from doing so.

Now, the PCs have done several things to make it harder to take that line. First of all, the alleged testimony of Raul Sandoval Jara, while obviously lies**, is carefully crafted (by the PCs), to give them legitimate reason to want to check out Aqueronte and to suspect something fishy about the ship, as well as enabling a local judge (who happens to be in Kessler's pocket) to issue a warrant to search the vessel for evidence of a) the presence of a suspected accessory to last night's shooting, b) human trafficking and/or c) other smuggling, while not including anything that can be pointed at in court as evidence the PCs should definitely have known that they'd meet armed resistance as soon as they boarded.

The warrant is issued on the basis of some pretty circumstantial evidence and might not have held up in court. For one thing, they called the judge from their boat and supplemented their earlier paperwork wirh new information, i.e. an alleged sighting through thermal sights of a female form when no women were part of the crew manifest, which allowed the judge to issue the warrant (and send an electronic copy to the PCs***).

However, as it happened, while the PCs did approach the Aqueronte because they planned to execute the warrant and they did stop the vessel by addressing them with a bullhorn asking them to submit to a search by the Galveston County Sheriff's Office and offered to show the warrant to the Captain, they were fired upon before they had a chance to execute the warrant.

While everyone they talk to, from the initial agents on up, will know damn well that the PCs didn't just happen to have scuba gear for two of their number with them and were thus planning to board tactically from the start and are lying through their teeth about having decided to not to wait for backup only after hearing a scream that made them afraid that people were being murdered aboard the Aqueronte, their story can't be disproven.

One PC and the NPC ally and fellow Reserve Deputy who also had scuba gear are licensed diving instructors who donate their time to train members of the Marine Units of several nearby Sheriff's Offices. They do have a legitimate, if not entirely plausible (in light of the fact it was the holidays) reason to have full suits of tactical team diving gear in their boat and no laws actually prohibit them having been planning on developing some training material for next year over the weekend. It also helps that both men are known to spend much of their free time diving, though usually not in full tactical gear.

Also, good forensics will determine that several of the victims aboard Aqueronte have severe injuries inflicted before they died and, indeed, in some cases, probably well before. A case can be made that at the time the PCs boarded, two and perhaps more people were being tortured and killed. Even though the PCs almost certainly didn't hear any screams from the engine room deep in the bowels of the ship all the way through a quarter mile of foggy evening at sea, no one can exactly disprove that, either.

A lot depends on who gets credit, here. If the official reports are accurate and truthful to the point that the FBI and other federal or state agencies involved get no credit, with the potential heroes being from the Galveston County Sheriff's Office, the Powers That Be will have every reason to try to taint the operation and even get the PCs in legal trouble. Even if the PCs successfully navigate through that with their prepared stories, one or more senior feds will almost certainly become Enemy (Watcher) or even (Rival).

But the PCs are wise in the ways of buraucracy and inter-agency rivalries. You see, executing the warrant with Reserve Deputy Lucien Lacoste was Deputy Marshal Natalie Garza of the United States Marshals Service, currently serving as a member of the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders and Fugitives Task Force. And the PCs are entirely willing to claim the operation as a joint task force endeavour, ably supported by the USCG and the FBI, as well as any number of thirsty AF state and federal agencies.

That changes the equation considerably. Now, the feds will have a vested interest in not exposing any flaws in the official version of the story. Oh, sure, large parts will be fiction, but they'll be a polite fiction bureaucratically agreed-on for purposes of sharing credit and not embarrassing anyone. And nobody wants a potentially weak warrant or improper actions by anyone on the GCVOFTF to taint the evidence aboard or the warrants that result from it, not if their agencies are potentially involved too, so irregularies will not be pursued.

So, ironically, it might actually be better for the PCs if the feds strongly suspect that they are lying to cover up an informant they are shielding or an illegal black-bag job or wiretap, because as long as that can't be proven and all the alphabet agencies share in the success, no one has a compelling motive to try to undermine the official version of events.

*An international crew of human traffickers with illegal, fully-automatic assault weapons is probably the closest to actual pirates any of the law-enforcement agents involved is going to see in his life.
**For one thing, Mr. Sandoval claims only have realized later that what he saw was suspicious and carefully mentions nothing that implicates him in any illegal activities. He just happened to see X and overhear Y, which only afterwards, once he knew that the people in question had ambushed police officers, he realized might have been evidence of other illegal activity.
***As well as a copy to Deputy Marshal Garza, on the GCVOFTF, which would become important when Lucien Lacoste (PC) found that not only could he not access the file on his smartphone, but his smartphone somehow crashed when he tried and wouldn't start again.
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Old 02-17-2020, 05:36 PM   #135
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Default Command of a Joint Task Force Covering Both Incidents

The 18 hours after the ambush of the prisoner transport in Galveston were a period where command of the law enforcement response was ambigious, with Galveston PD nominally the lead agency for the investigation, but both Texas DPS and the FBI treating that as a legal fiction while providing 'support' in the form of trying to run the investigation.

The Gulf Coast Violent Offender and Fugitive Task Force (GCVOFTF) was used as the temporary structure for the manhunt for escaped suspects and potential accessories, with the US Marshals leading the manhunt (by virtue of their primacy on the permanent GCVOFTF) and local Sheriff's Offices and police departments having personnel on that task force.

However, after the shootout aboard the container vessel Aqueronte in the waters of Galveston Bay, the law enforcement response will alter again and probably take the form of a special task force. I will roll whether the state government of Texas or federal law enforcement agencies win the turf battle for command of the task force, with the losers stuck with a subordinate support position.

What I was wondering, what kind of rank should the commander of such a task force be?

If he's from the Texas DPS, is he a CID or Texas Rangers Major of the local DPS command? Or the Regional Director of the Southeast Region, which includes Houston and Galveston? Even higher up? Or even possibly, just a Captain or even Lieutenant being considered for higher things and good with the media?

If a federal LEO, what kind of rank?

Assistant Special Agent in Charge? Higher? Lower?
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Old 02-17-2020, 08:21 PM   #136
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Default Re: Command of a Joint Task Force Covering Both Incidents

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If a federal LEO, what kind of rank?

Assistant Special Agent in Charge? Higher? Lower?
This is (I think) at least big enough for an Assistant Special Agent in Charge to be involved, but depending on how much coverage it's getting in the national news (given the context, it sounds like the answer would be 'a lot,' unless there's something else big going on to distract the media), a full Special Agent in Charge might be better.

EDIT: A lot of people in the public and even the media in the US don't have a great understanding of FBI ranks (and some in the media may pretend not to, to stir people up), so someone with 'assistant' in front of their title talking to the press may have people thinking that the person who is actually in charge sent his/her assistant to talk to the press, which doesn't always go over well.
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Old 02-18-2020, 04:50 AM   #137
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Default Re: Command of a Joint Task Force Covering Both Incidents

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This is (I think) at least big enough for an Assistant Special Agent in Charge to be involved, but depending on how much coverage it's getting in the national news (given the context, it sounds like the answer would be 'a lot,' unless there's something else big going on to distract the media), a full Special Agent in Charge might be better.

EDIT: A lot of people in the public and even the media in the US don't have a great understanding of FBI ranks (and some in the media may pretend not to, to stir people up), so someone with 'assistant' in front of their title talking to the press may have people thinking that the person who is actually in charge sent his/her assistant to talk to the press, which doesn't always go over well.
Good point.

The first incident took place Friday night (actually a few minutes past midnight, so strictly speaking, Saturday morning, 29th of December, 2018). The FBI has a resident agency or satellite office administered from its Houston field office located in Texas City, 15 miles from the scene of the shooting.

Within ten minutes of the shooting, Special Agent Richard Rennison of that resident agency, who has worked closely with the Galveston County Sheriff's Office for more than a decade and who knew the deputies shot in the attack, had contacted the Sheriff's Office offering his support.

Within half an hour, Special Agent Rennison was at the scene and the FBI had officially offered the services of other agents and support personnel from its Houston field office to assist the Galveston PD and Galveston County Sheriff's Office. During the night, Special Agent Rennison was joined by other agents from the Texas City resident agency and functioned as, effectively, the case agent for the FBI response during the first few hours.

Texas City Resident Agency Supervisory Special Agent Bryan C. Gaines coordinated the FBI response during this first night and prepared a briefing for the Special Agent in Charge of the Houston field office and other senior FBI personnel who would be coming in that morning.

Special Agents Rennison and Gaines both wanted to take point on the investigation, but while Agent Rennison will continue to be the lead investigator from the FBI moving forward, Special Agent Gaines is not senior enough to continue in the role of the top commander of the FBI response once dozens of agents are assigned to the case on Saturday morning.

ASAC Ed Michel of the FBI Houston field office was obviously not at work on a Friday night, but he decided to come in early that Saturday morning. At a meeting with his boss, SAC Perrye K. Turner, the decision to send ASAC Michel down to Galveston was made, in preparation for the FBI taking over the case.

The selection of ASAC Michel made sense to me as in real life, he's worked several cases with the Galveston PD and Galveston County Sheriff's Office, including a high-profile one in 2018. There are five ASACs in the Houston field office, but at least from 2017-2018, ASAC Michel effectively functioned as the second-in-command of the field office and chief of staff. This is, therefore, a sign that the Houston field office is taking the murder of peace officers in Galveston very seriously.

The only more senior person they could have sent would have been the SAC himself, which would have left the Houston office leaderless, which would have been sub-optimal in light of the facts that; a) one of the largest field offices in the United States will always have other ongoing cases, b) aspects of the investigation of the incident required coordination with Texas DPS, Dallas PD, Houston PD and the Harris County Sheriff's Office, as well as the law enforcement agencies located in the Galveston area, and c) administration, investigative support, forensics and all sorts of other things for the investigation would be coordinated from Houston anyway.

ASAC Michel is an experienced agent with a background in homicide investigations, counter-terrorism and emergency management. Crucially, he's also the person in the FBI Houston field office who most often seems to manage media relations and coordination with local police forces during high-profile homicide cases, active shooter incidents and terrorist scares.

One factor to keep in mind about ASAC Michel is that he has applied for several senior executive law enforcement jobs outside the FBI, as he evidently does not expect to be promoted to the FBI senior executive service, i.e. to have a chance at Special Agent in Charge of one of the main field offices. In real life, he would retire from the FBI a few months after these events to take a job in his home town of New Orleans.

That means that ASAC Michel is probably extra sensitive to public scrutiny at this time (as he's trying to land a job as a top cop of a state-level law enforcement agency or as the chief of a major municipal police force), but as he has already been passed over for promotion within the FBI, he might be less susceptible to pressure from Washington.

All in all, ASAC Michel is most likely to navigate a middle course between the demands of his FBI bosses and the political sensibilities of Texas politicians. His primary motivation, however, will be to discharge his responsibilities to the best of his ability, but also to be seen by the public, and any governor or mayor looking for a new police chief, managing this crisis professionally and well.

However, when Michel has just finished his first full day as the senior FBI man in Galveston, officially providing support to the Galveston PD and the Gulf Coast Violent Offender and Fugitive Task Force, but practically behaving as if the FBI are in charge, the second incident occurs, around 18:00 of that Saturday, the 29th of December, 2018.

And now the investigation is going to get a lot bigger and the legal fiction of the Galveston PD being the primary agency will come to an end. At this point, it is entirely possible that ASAC Michel will remain attached to the Gulf Coast Violent Offender and Fugitive Task Force in Galveston and continue to work on the case, but another, special task force will be a created and a more senior FBI man, possibly one sent from Washington, will be placed at its head.

Is that something that might happen? And if so, what kind of FBI man might that be, i.e. would be a sort of roving Special Agent in Charge or is there a division within the FBI from which a senior figure might be sent to handle such a case?

Or, alternatively, of course, from the Department of Justice or the Department of Homeland Security, and/or any of their constituent agencies that might claim jurisdiction; in practice, most likely ICE - Homeland Security Investigations.
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Old 02-21-2020, 05:15 AM   #138
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Default Federal Government Response

Ok, I've determined that after the second incident, Washington will dispatch two to three senior figures.

One will be a very senior field agent or even an executive (who is a former field agent) of the FBI more senior than Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ed Michel. I'm thinking someone currently serving at headquarters, but with a wealth of investigative and command experience.

At least SAC-level, but possibly someone with a management position within a division like CIRG or even someone on the staff of either the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch (CCRSB) or the National Security Branch (NSB), depending on what the Attorney-General's office determines about the jurisdictional issues and the legal determination of 'terrorist' act.

The FBI response will be 100% mundane, in that no one among those sent from Washington will be able to pierce the Facade and all of them will have Mundane Background.

Can anyone imagine what rank the senior FBI person should hold? Or suggest a real person of SAC or higher rank whom I could fictionalize?

The other will be a very experienced field agent from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) - Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), chosen especially to be one level above whomever the FBI send. Also, the informal network or faction within the Department of Homeland Security composed of people who've learned about the supernatural and are trying to let the government respond to it, managed to influence events to the point that while the senior ICE person sent is not a believer, his second in command is and so are a number of the agents dispatched.

Any suggestion for a real person in this role?

Also, the hypothetical third senior figure would be a high-ranking prosecutor. I'm not sure whether it is appropriate to assign a prosecutor from federal headquarters to a law enforcement task force operating within the geographical area of responsibility of a United States Attorney, but if the Justice Department can get away with doing so, they will try, because US Attorney Ryan Patrick is entirely too pro-Texas for the tastes of the federal government.

Oh, and President Trump tweets about the events in Texas. Any suggestions for his tweets, the media response and the effects, if any, on actual government policy?
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Old 02-21-2020, 08:04 AM   #139
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Default So Who Ends Up in Charge?

As far as I can determine, there are three law enforcement agencies with the most realistic claim to the role of lead agency in an investigation that covers both the ambush of law enforcement officers transporting 'Gwen Delvano' and the incident aboard the container vessel Aqueronte, as well as any criminal conspiracies that might lie behind these acts of violence. So far, the evidence strongly supports a human trafficking operation and money laundering that might be linked to other criminal activity, but anything else is conjecture.

The three agencies with the most realistic claim to being the primary agency and receiving command of any joint task force are: the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations (under ICE) and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

ATF, CBT, the Secret Service, USCG, Houston PD, Galveston PD, Dallas PD and several nearby Sheriff's Offices will intimately involved, but none of them had a realistic claim (or ability, in the case of the smaller Sheriff's Offices or PDs) to being the lead agency.

Due to the involvement of Deputy US Marshal Natalie Garza and the status of the Marshals Service-led Gulf Coast Violent Offenders and Fugitive Task Force (GCVOFTF) as the entity responsible for serving the warrant aboard Aqueronte, the US Marshals actually have a very strong claim. I also rolled a critical success for their unnamed senior bureaucrat back in Washington. This means that the US Marshals could actually make a case that the GCVOFTF should continue to be the primary unit concerned with the case, led by a Supervisory Deputy US Marshal.

However, that isn't what they really want, as they don't really have the investigative manpower to handle an investigation of this magnitude. Instead, a heavy dose of any credit will be given to the GCVOFTF and the US Marshals, not to mention that the task force, under US Marshal leadership, will continue to serve warrants based on the results of the ongoing investigation.

To that end, the US Marshals Service are sending detachments from their Special Operations Group (SOG) to the Dallas and Houston areas, as well as calling up all DUSMs belonging to Special Response Teams in any nearby office.

The logistics people for the mysterious Consortium in Dallas and Houston will have warrants out on them as soon as the lawyers can transcribe what Raul Sandoval shared with the PCs and the US Marshals will lead that manhunt, but won't really be concerned with investigating the crime scene or doing field interviews, forensics accounting or all the other vital tasks that the US Marshals don't have enough personnel for.

As for the investigation itself, there will be a massive joint task force incorporating federal, state and local law enforcement. And I rolled for who would end up commanding it...

Texas Department of Public Safety won.
FBI had a margin of only 1 less on the QC.
Then after that, the Homeland Security Investigations only had 1 less on their QC margin.

These results are close enough so that the PCs' preferences can actually change who ends up in charge, especially given that Lucien Lacoste has dealt extremely competently with the initial response aboard Aqueronte, deflecting any anger and accusation and getting ASAC Ed Michel (in charge of the FBI contingent until someone more senior is sent) decisively on his side.

Hmm... I think I will have Lacoste roll a default Politics check to determine if he realizes that his optimal course of action is accepting that the FBI will appoint the deputy commander of the task force if they don't get the command and he should direct all his energies to ensuring that this person is ASAC Ed Michel and not someone more senior.

If Lacoste can make Michel look indispensable enough in the hours until Washington gets around to deciding on a new special joint task force, as well as showing Michel managing relations with local police well enough, it would be very hard for The Powers That Be in Washington to sideline him from the investigation.

We'll call that an application of Politics that can default from Savoir-Faire (Police) instead of IQ, at the normal -5, so Lacoste succeeds on his skill check.

So, I'll need a Texan law enforcement officer to put in charge of the task force that will handle the investigation. This will be someone friendly to Kessler and his people, because the PCs' roll against Patron succeeded.

It shall be Regional Director Jason Taylor, recently promoted to command all TxDPS assets in Region 2, which includes Houston and Galveston, and before that a long-time Texas Ranger and the Major of Company A in Houston, responsible for the area which, again, includes Galveston.

Jason Taylor is actually someone who can be reasoned with when it comes to resolving an investigation involving the supernatural, because while he doesn't quite understand everything about it, he's been convinced by some of his best investigators that many murders and other serious crimes involve aspects which can't really be written about in reports, because nobody would believe them. So, stroke of luck there.

I'll also need a senior Homeland Security Investigation figure. This one will be resentful that they are not the lead agency on something that is clearly a human trafficking case, which is their core competency. They'll also dislike Lacoste specifically, because he's reckless and clearly should have shared his information with ICE before boarding the Aqueronte.*

Edit: I'm considering having her be a fictional Special Agent in Charge dispatched from headquarters, by the name of Valeria Sanders (b. August 16, 1974; Chugwater, Wyoming).

*And because I rolled a very low Reaction roll for them.
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Old 02-21-2020, 10:52 AM   #140
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Oh, and President Trump tweets about the events in Texas. Any suggestions for his tweets, the media response and the effects, if any, on actual government policy?
A message of condolence to and solidarity with the police and the families of those who were lost is, of course, a given. Both sides of the media will certainly echo this. If there’s decent indication (and there seems to be) that some degree of illegal immigration was involved with the case, expect Trump to call strongly for more support for border security, with the right supporting him and the left denouncing his statements as anti-immigrant and/or racist. Once the pishtaco attack the hospital (assuming you still go that route), expect this to ramp up. Given the scope of this ongoing event, it’s certainly going to come up in his State of the Union in February. Some sort of immigration crackdown (potentially including severe political pressure on “sanctuary cities,” particularly if any of the attackers can be linked to one) is possible, and given the grimness of your setting we can expect detainees to be beset by malign supernatural influences.
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