INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) -- We're hearing from the new special agent in charge of the FBI's Indianapolis Division for the first time since he was hired a few months ago.
Grant Mendenhall took over the job on February 20, 2018 after former Special Agent in Charge Jay Abbott retired.
Mendenhall is an Indiana native and graduate of Ball State. He most recently worked as the assistant director of the Counterterrorism Division.
He started his career in the Milwaukee Division, working violent crime and gang investigations. From there, he went to Salt Lake City, serving as the squad supervisor in the Violent Crime and Domestic Terrorism Programs.
In 2003, he served in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He also worked in Baghdad as the deputy legal attache from April 2010 to 2011. He served in a variety of counterterrorism roles until he was promoted to Special Agent in Charge of the Indianapolis Division.
In the first 90 days of the job, Mendenhall says he's traveled all over the state.
"First priority for me is to get to know my people sort of on a personal level to understand what makes them tick. One of the really fun things, a lot of people are from here, where they have family here so there's a fun dynamic to be in an office where so many people like I am personally invested in our communities.
He said he's also focusing on learning the investigative programs of the division on and partnerships with law enforcement, the private sector and the public.
"Very little of what we do do we do on our own, we rely heavily on our law enforcement partnerships, our private sector and then our partnerships with people in the public, we can't do our job without the trust and cooperation of our law enforcement partners private sector partners and then just John Q. citizen. If people don't trust you when you say you're with the FBI, we can't do our job, so I've been focused a lot on our partnerships which are incredible here in the state of Indiana," he said.
One of those partnerships, includes the one with IMPD, focusing on violent crime.
It's something I've been talking with my local counterparts myself and the U.S. State's Attorney both here and in the northern district have had a lot of conversations about it understanding that the ultimate objective is to reduce not just in Marion County, areas of the state as well. We're always sort of looking back on how we've done things in the past and trying to determine if we're really having an impact whether there investigations that we own, long term gang investigations, those type of things or instances where we are supporting IMPD, for example. We're always focused on where's the impact, are we having an impact with the idea that moving forward we always have to be evolving with the threat, which is really no different in the violent program and the counter-terrorism program, the threats continuously evolving, the dynamics on the ground in Marion County are constantly changing so the riddle is how do we stay ahead of instead of always playing catching up? It's a constant conversation here in Marion county more than anywhere else in Indiana, but I think the important thing for people to understand is first and foremost, the partnerships are strong in law enforcement community and we are going to continue to evolve and continue to address the violent crime problem moving forward and it's always going to be a partnership between us and the locals, state police, our federal partners, we're all in this together and we're all looking to have a lasting community impact a lasting community impact that's the goal to reduce the incidents of violent crime.
Mendenhall is also focusing on some of the major cases in the state.
As he was retiring, Mendenhall's predecessor, Jay Abbott said one of his biggest regrets was not solving the murders of Delphi teens Abby Williams and Libby German.
"That's a frustrating case and we need closure on that case and I still have a significant amount of resources dedicated to that along with Delphi and the state police we're working it just as hard today as we were on day one and we will continue to do that until it's solved. These cases are frustrating, they require a huge amount of resources, a huge number of leads have been run out over the last year without success but we just have to keep chugging along and we have to continue to approach this thing the longer you go into an investigation like this, the opportunities for people to kind of forget about it, become complacent can start to creep in over time that's a challenge that we've met over the last year because our resources to that case is still significant as it is with Delphi and the state police so it's as if it just happened for us from an investigative stand point," Mendenhall said.
He also discussed the shooting at Noblesville West Middle School and what the FBI's role is in that case.
"Friday was a horrible tragedy for everybody involved, obviously especially the victims and their families and our hearts go out to them, but I think from a law enforcement stand point, the incredible response by all law enforcement. We were there as were other elements of the federal government and when we respond to situations like that, it's kind of a two pronged approach, what can we do to support our local counter part, in this case Noblesville, what investigative resources can we bring that could help them get through the immediate aftermath and then for the extended investigation piece of it, what can we lend? And then the second prong is, when an event happens like this, we're always looking to as quickly as we can, what the motivation is and then is there anything else, is there anything more to the story," said Mendenhall.
"This is an ongoing investigation, I'm not going to make any specific comments, really about the incident or the investigation, back to our two pronged approach, what's the motivation and what we look for -- is there was this motivated by some type of ideology either an international terrorism type ideology, domestic terrorism, type of ideology which can take on sort of various sorts of definitions. But when you think about federal ownership of an event, in an event like this, that's what we're looking for -- was the shooter motivated by ideology, an anti-government ideology a terrorism ideology something along those lines that's what we look for and we haven't seen that here."
Mendenhall says they'll stay involved with the case to lend whatever resources they can as they move forward with the investigation.