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Colleagues offer Orchard high praise

Fellow law enforcement officials describe wounded FBI Special Agent Peter Orchard as a tough, experienced cop who knows how to handle himself in dangerous situations.

He's also a West Point graduate who served in the Army and traveled to the Mideast with the FBI to train police officers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Orchard's accidental shooting during a Thursday morning drug raid upset officers, but they also were thankful that Orchard's injuries are not life-threatening.

"I've known Pete for many years, and he's a consummate FBI agent, very well respected by his peers," said Paul M. Moskal, a retired FBI agent who worked with Orchard on many cases. "He's known as an agent who is very well trained in the art of finding fugitives and making difficult arrests."

Although Orchard's name was not revealed at an FBI news conference after Thursday's drug raid, his identity was confirmed for The Buffalo News by more than a dozen law enforcement and federal court officials who know him well.

Members of Orchard's family visited him Thursday in Erie County Medical Center.

Orchard, a member of the Buffalo FBI's SWAT team, was with a team of agents assigned to look for a suspect in a home on Coit Street early Thursday morning. A fellow agent's gun discharged accidentally, wounding Orchard in the shoulder, authorities said.

"The bullet passed through without hitting any arteries, thankfully," said one police official who is familiar with the case. "Pete is going to be OK."

The name of the agent who fired the accidental shot was not released, but a law enforcement official said that agent feels "terrible -- probably worse than Pete feels" -- about the incident.

Specific information about Orchard was unavailable Thursday, but police who know him said he grew up in Western New York, is in his 40s, married, with three children.

In addition to serving on the SWAT team, they said Orchard is a firearms expert who often provides training to other agents. Authorities said he has been an FBI agent for at least 15 years.

"He's a good agent, a good family man and very well respected in the law enforcement community," said Joseph A. Giacobbe, chief federal probation officer for the Western District of New York. "He's a very down-to-earth guy with a dry sense of humor."

In May 2001, Orchard received a special Justice Department award for rescuing three children who had been illegally taken from Buffalo to Georgia -- and allegedly molested -- by a relative.

"I'm shocked by this [shooting]," Giacobbe added. "You hear about agents going out on these big drug raids, and you take the work they do for granted. I just thank God he's going to be OK."

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com and lmichel@buffnews.com

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