Circumstances of Death
Special Agents (SA) Ariel Rios and Alex D'Atri were working undercover as part of the Vice President's (George H. W. Bush) South Florida Task Force. The agents made arrangements to meet with two suspects at the Hurricane Motel in Miami to purchase large quantities of cocaine and machineguns. The meeting was going well until one suspect suddenly became suspicious. It is believed that he may have observed other law enforcement personnel in the area. He drew his weapon and made threats and Agent Rios immediately struggled with him. Agent Rios was shot and seriously wounded. Agent D'Atri immediately drew his weapon and engaged in a gunfight with both suspects. Agent D'Atri and the two suspects were all seriously wounded.
The agents were rushed to the hospital and considering their wounds, not expected to live. Agent Rios died shortly thereafter. Agent D'Atri, although wounded five times, miraculously survived after several surgeries and months of recovery. Two defendants were convicted of Federal first degree murder, assault and firearm charges for the death of SA Rios and the wounding of SA D'Atri. Three other defendants were convicted on 2nd degree murder and assault charges for the death of SA Rios and wounding of SA D'Atri. Seven additional defendants were convicted on conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute cocaine charges.
SA Rios joined ATF on December 4, 1978. He carried badge #1527. Prior to his death, SA Rios was one of the most active and effective agents on the Vice President's Task Force. The week prior to his murder, SA Rios was the case agent on the seizure of two machineguns and over 100 firearm silencers. Approximately three months earlier, eight people had died and two were wounded during a massacre at the same location where the silencers had been manufactured. In an unrelated case several months prior to his death, SA Rios was working undercover when a suspect put a loaded machinegun to his partner Joseph. E. Benitez's head. He later learned this was their way of testing him to see, "how he would react." Agent Rios (posthumously) received several awards, including the Secretary's (of the Treasury) Exceptional Service Award and a Meritorious Service Award from the Dade County Chief's of Police Association in recognition of his investigative work in Dade County, FL.
SA Rios was born in New York, NY. He was survived by his wife, Elsie and their two children.