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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

September 13, 2013


Contact: Public Affairs Division

(202) 648-8500

ATF Graduates 2013 National Firearms Examiner Academy Law Enforcement Class

WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Firearms Examiner Academy (NFEA) today graduated its 2012-2013 class after a year-long training program conducted by ATF’s National Laboratory Center (NLC). Students were provided training for apprentice/entry level firearm and tool mark examiners from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The curriculum included fundamentals of firearm and tool mark examination and serves as the foundation for supervised development into qualified examiners.

“As graduates of the NFEA , your newly acquired skills will play a critical role in directly helping reduce violent crime in your communities,” said ATF Assistant Director H. Richard Holgate, Office of Science and Technology/Chief Information Officer. “What you have learned will go hand-in-hand with ATF’s new Frontline strategy that includes keying in on some of the most violent communities in the nation and focusing investigations on those individuals who are at the core of the violence. Your skills will make you a stronger ally in our collective fight against violent crime.”

Members of the Sept. 13, graduating class include students: Samantha Berghorn, Onondaga County Center for Forensic Sciences, Syracuse, N.Y.; Apryl Brown, Kern Regional Crime Laboratory, Bakersfield, Calif.; Louis Day, Baton Rouge Police Department, Baton Rouge, La.; Laura Hollenbeck, Winston-Salem Police Department, Winston-Salem, N.C.; Darin Marcinkiewicz, St. Louis County Police Department, Clayton, Mo.; Sean McElrath, New Orleans Police Department, New Orleans, La.; Scott Powers, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, Covington, La.; Elaine Pulido, Solano County District Attorney’s Office, Fairfield, Calif.; Melinda Raines, Scottsdale Police Department Crime Lab, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Blake Reta, West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory, South Charleston, W.Va.; Jonathan Wickwire, Michigan State Police, Sterling Heights, Mich.; and Aaron Zirzow, Minneapolis Police Department, Minneapolis.

The NFEA class, held from October 2012-September 2013, included instruction on laboratory protocol, safety and ethics, as well as standards that govern the admissibility of expert testimony in court. Students received training in the history of black powder; the evolution of early firearms; modern ammunition and its evolution and manufacturing; and microscopy and instrumentation. Additional classes covered firearm identification; manufacturing of modern firearms; preliminary examination of firearms; bullet examination and comparison; tool mark examination, comparison and identification; and restoration of obliterated markings. Instruction included terminal ballistics; gunshot residue; shot patterns; bullet path analysis; and wound effects, as well as the examination and comparison of cartridges; cartridge cases; shot shells; fired shot shells and other topics.

Upon successful completion of the program NFEA graduates will continue approximately an additional year of training at their home laboratories before they can independently and completely examine and compare physical evidence relating to firearms and tool mark identification; independently reach conclusions and render opinions relating to their examinations and comparisons; and provide expert testimony in a professional and impartial manner. The NFEA ’s standardized program with the support of the National Institute of Justice is conducted at ATF’s NLC. The next class is scheduled to begin in October.

ATF is a law enforcement agency within the U.S. Department of Justice that is dedicated to preventing violent crime. More information on ATF and its programs is available at