Ariel Rios

Special Agent Ariel Rios
Date of Birth: 
Date of Death: 
December 2, 1982
Location of Death: 
Miami, FL
Image of the Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms badge

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.

Associated Artifacts: 
Image of the invitation for the Ariel Rios building dedication ceremony.
Image of the front cover of the Ariel Rios Federal Building Dedication Ceremony Program
Image of the Ariel Rios Federal Building Dedication Ceremony program - Page 2 & 3
Image of an instert quoting from the Fort Lauderdale News, titled Task Force Agent Dies in Shootout.
Image of an insert with quotes from staff writers of The Miami Herald.
Image of the Narcotic Enforcement Officers Associations Annual Robert Stankye Awards ceremony program highlighting Agent Rios as a recipient of a posthumous award.
Image of pages 2 and 3 of the Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association Awards program
Front cover of the newspaper featuring the fallen agent
Image of the Hurricane Motel where Special Agent Rios was killed.
Image of Special Agent Rios partner Nick Berone smoking a cigarrette.
Image of Special Agent Rios widow Elsie with son Francisco and daughter Eileen
Image of a quote stating The last thing that DAtri remember is being out of ammunition with Alvarez blasting him in the chest with a .357 magnum.
Agent Rich Smith's quote regarding Ariel Rios' final resting place. He said, "It seemed almost bizarre until we actually got there, on top of a mountain and after we saw it, we knew why there was no other place he wanted to be."
Last Reviewed July 16, 2019