CEDAR RAPIDS — Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Myron McDaniel has tackled many challenges over his 31-year career, whether it be rappelling from a Black Hawk helicopter to chop down giant marijuana plants or coordinating devastating crime scenes after the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 terrorist attacks. But his biggest challenge may be yet to come.
He has to retire from a job he loves next month because he turned 57, which is the mandatory retirement age for career deputy marshals. As a chief deputy, he is the highest-ranking sworn law enforcement professional who handles the day-to-day operations of the 52-county U.S. District of the Northern District of Iowa, which includes the Cedar Rapids and Sioux City offices.
Each of the 94 marshal districts across the country has a politically appointed U.S. marshal who oversees the district, and the deputies carry out the operations of judicial security, fugitive apprehension, prisoner operations, witness security and asset forfeiture.
“I feel like this a calling,” McDaniel, who has been chief deputy for 13 years, said. “It’s hard to quit at the end of the day because the job is never done. The service is never completed. It’s going to be hard to leave.”
McDaniel, who grew up in Lamoni, started his career as a Marshalltown police officer. But he felt limited on duties and wanted the opportunity to work in different areas of the country.
At the time, McDaniel said he didn’t know much about the marshal service, which is the nation’s oldest law enforcement agency. It was created by President George Washington in 1789.
A tragedy — the killing of a family member in Kansas City — led to him learning more about the agency.
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He didn’t want to provide too many details about the death, but said seeing it from the “victim’s side” — going through trial proceedings for the killer — made him realize the importance of the justice system in providing closure to his family and others.
That spurred McDaniel toward the marshal service, because he said the agency not only arrests “bad guys” but also protects the judiciary so justice can be served for the public.
From deposed dictators to mob members
McDaniel is humble about his work and accomplishments, but he has been involved in many high-profile security cases.
He started out in Miami. As a member of the Special Operations Group, one of his duties was to provide security for ousted Panama dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega during U.S. legal proceedings. The former leader was tried and convicted in a Florida federal court on charges involving racketeering, drug smuggling and money laundering.
Noriega was placed in a safe house for 24/7 security.
“When we moved him, he was blindfolded and placed in a wheelchair, so he couldn’t count steps or calculate turns to further conceal any direction of travel or location,” McDaniel said.
He also worked numerous other witness security assignments that involved mafia members, including a few professional assassins.
The marshals transported these high-profile witnesses in armored vehicles and heavily armed motorcades.
A ‘dark period’ in Oklahoma City
The same tactics were used when McDaniel was in Oklahoma and handling trial security for terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. The two were convicted in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
McDaniel calls this a “dark period” for him. He said many friends and colleagues were killed and injured in the bombing.
“All the funerals and the heartache of choosing which funerals to attend because there were multiple funerals at the same time,” McDaniel, looking down, said as he recalled that time.
The marshals worked in a courthouse across from the Murrah building. All the windows of the courthouse were blasted out by the bomb. Luckily, McDaniel had planned to come in late that day.
“I lived about 12 miles away,” he said. “It shook the patio door. Sounded like a sonic bomb. The marshals were in charge of the inner perimeter of the crime scene and helped some with recovery efforts.”
McDaniel also was dispatched years later, while still in Oklahoma, to the Pentagon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He was the deputy in charge of perimeter security of the crime scene and also helped sift through debris and evidence.
Also during his 15 years in Oklahoma, he was part of marijuana eradication missions to destroy huge plants growing in forestry areas.
“The only way to reach them was to rappel in from Black Hawk and Chinook — twin engine — helicopters because they couldn’t land, and then we would chop them down with machetes,” McDaniel said.
He then was assigned to Kansas City, Kan., for over three years before coming back to Iowa.
Return to Iowa brings challenges
One of his first challenges in this district came in 2008 with the massive immigration raid at a meatpacking plant in Postville. The marshal service had to locate jails and prisons to house the nearly 400 arrested in the raid, as well as another 225 defendants already in custody for other offenses.
The marshals contracted with 13 jails across Iowa to house prisoners, McDaniel said. They also sent some to penitentiaries in Anamosa, Kansas and Florida.
Marshals also were responsible for setting up an off-site location for the judicial proceedings at the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo. The immigrants working in the country illegally were fast-tracked through court proceedings, with the majority deported after conviction.
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His second challenge came about a month later, in June 2008, with the historic Cedar Rapids flood. McDaniel said his post-disaster experience helped him coordinate all the security measures needed for a new U.S. District Courthouse, which was constructed years earlier than expected because of flood funding.
‘He is a true public servant’
As the chief deputy, McDaniel now spends less time in the field and is in more of a supervisory role. He oversees the schedule, workflow and assignments of the deputies and provides coordination between this district and headquarters in Washington, D.C., to acquire funding.
“We have the best court security and judicial protection that this district has ever had,” McDaniel said. “Better funding, better technology, better trained marshals and great cooperation and coordination with the federal judges and judiciary.”
His co-workers and supervisor say they will miss his knowledge and dedication.
“He continues to work long hours to ensure the district runs as smoothly as possible,” Supervisory Deputy Brandon Johnson said. “He is genuinely concerned about leaving the district in the best condition possible for his successor.”
U.S. Marshal Douglas Strike agreed, saying McDaniel has been his best source of information since his appointment started in January.
“I deeply thank him for that and for his many years of service to our country,” Strike said.
“Myron has been a respected member of Iowa’s federal court community for many years," U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan said. “He is a true public servant. We will miss Myron’s dedication and expertise.”
McDaniel said it’s been an “honor” to serve over 31 years with “dedicated and talented administration support staff and other deputy marshals, who are some of the best warriors and guardians within the law enforcement community.”
He said he may take a year off to devote to his family, but he plans to continue to volunteer and serve in some way, possibly in the private sector.
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