New leader appointed to ATF's St. Paul office

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has appointed a veteran agent to lead operations in Minnesota and surrounding states, the agency announced Tuesday.

Scott Sweetow, head of the ATF's Atlanta office, has been named special agent in charge of the agency's St. Paul Field Division, which oversees Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.

He replaces Bernard J. Zapor, who was promoted last November to deputy assistant director of the central region, where he will oversee 18 states. Zapor was also appointed to oversee ATF's Special Operations Division.

The regional deputy assistant director positions had historically been based at ATF headquarters in Washington, but the agency moved those positions to the regions under the belief that the supervisors would better connect with their colleagues in the field. Zapor plans to stay in Minnesota.

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"ATF's priority is our front line, which is where we are really sharpening our focus and ensuring we use every single resource we have ... to identify the sources of crime guns and those that would be illegally using them,'' Zapor said in an interview with The Associated Press ahead of Tuesday's announcement.

"We want to make sure we're working on things that are going to reduce gun violence, period,'' Zapor said.

Zapor, who has led the ATF's St. Paul office since 2005, said his new responsibilities include areas that have seen their share of gun violence in the last year, including Chicago, which saw a spike in gang-related homicides in 2012, New Orleans and Detroit. The special agents in charge are still in command of their respective field divisions, and Zapor will have oversight.

Sweetow has spent the last six years in the ATF's Atlanta office, and has been the special agent in charge there since September 2011.

"I am eager to take up the challenges in my new area of responsibility and look forward to working with federal, state, local and international partners,'' Sweetow said Tuesday.

Sweetow began his ATF career in 1990 in Los Angeles, where he spent several years assigned to an arson and explosives group. As part of ATF's National Response Team, he responded to and investigated high-profile cases such as the bombings in Oklahoma City and Centennial Olympic Park.

Sweetow has also served as an intelligence officer in Los Angeles, and has been a program manager and a chief of policy development in Washington. He also served as chief of the Arson, Explosives and International Training Division, and was a supervisory special agent in Phoenix. He was also the first ATF agent to deploy to Iraq, and was there in 2003 as homemade bombs were emerging as a threat.

"He's a very smart guy with a lot of interesting experiences,'' Zapor said of Sweetow. "He'll be successful here and do a great job.''

Sweetow is a native of Tucson, Ariz.