The Question That Won't Die

A mild-mannered U.S. Customs inspector is shot to death. Police call it suicide. Friends and family say thatís inconceivable.

I do not believe that the shooting can be classified as a suicide and that the manner of death should remain undetermined for the following reasons:

1. Mr. Berkofsky had absolutely no history of depression, suicidal attempts or ideations, or other psychiatric illnesses. He was in a rational state of mind the morning of the shooting as he had taken and recorded his blood glucose level that morning to monitor his diabetes mellitus, and had a grocery list in his pocket of items that he had planned to purchase on the afternoon of that day.

2. The shooting occurred in a closed room with only one other person present — another U.S. Customs agent, whose version of eventsthat had taken place in the room was not questioned by police. He was not given a polygraph test at the time, and recently has refused to undergo polygraph testing on the advice of his attorney.

Sam Weber
Sam Weber

3. Mr. Berkofsky and this agent had an ongoing verbal disagreementover work ethics in the office, which culminated in a meeting with the supervisor the evening before the shooting. Mr. Berkofsky was reported to be upset at the meeting, but the other agent was reported to have been disciplined and threatened with a written reprimand in regard to his behavior.

4. On the morning of the shooting, Mr. Berkofsky was reported by an eyewitness to have offered his hand to the other agent in a handshake gesture, and to have said he wanted to put the disagreement behind him. Instead, the other agent asked Mr. Berkofsky to come with him to the conference room where the shooting occurred to discuss the disagreement. Mr. Berkofsky did not initiate the invitationto the conference room.

5. There were conflicting statements made by investigators as to whether the other agent had entered the bathroom immediately following the shooting, allowing him the opportunity to wash his hands. Although the gunshot residue test for Mr. Berkofsky showed “a number of particles” present, the test for the other agent was negative. Neither Mr. Berkofsky or the other agent had blood on either hand. Investigators were unable to come to a conclusion as to whether the other agent had or had not gone to the bathroom.

6. The weapon found in Mr. Berkofsky’s hand at the scene had no fingerprints on it.

7. The other agent had extensive military experience, as he was in the U.S. Army as a Sergeant Major for approximately 25 years, and was deployed on tours of duty in Vietnam during the Vietnam War [ed. note: Marrero-Colon was stationed in Korea, not Vietnam], and Desert Storm and Desert Shield during the Persian Gulf War.

8. The background of the other agent was only superficially investigated in regard to his past military career and personal life. In addition, investigators did not interview any former military colleagues, friends, or the agent’s former wife.

9. The other agent stated to investigators that he and Mr. Berkofsky struggled for the gun during the incident. By convention, when a struggle for control of a weapon occurs between two individuals, and one of the individuals dies as a result, the manner of death is classified as a homicide.

Note: The other agent has not expressed sympathy to Mr. Berkofsky’s family in regard to his death.

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