Only One Secret Service Officer Has Ever Been Killed Protecting the President

In 1929, Leslie Coffelt became a member of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., and in 1941 requested and was awarded a transfer to the White House Police. On the morning of November 1, 1950, Secret Service Agent Coffelt probably expected a routine day of guarding President Harry S. Truman, who was staying at Blair House because of renovations being done on the White House. Instead, he encountered two Puerto Rico nationalists — Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo — who attacked the guard booth where Coffelt was stationed. They shot him three times before moving to defend themselves against other Secret Service agents who were approaching the scene. Coffelt, who was still alive at that point, managed to drag himself out of the booth and prop himself up against it before shooting Torresola and killing him. Coffelt then blacked out. He died in the hospital four hours later, becoming the only Secret Service agent to ever die protecting a U.S. president. Collazo was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to the death penalty. Later, Truman commuted the sentence to life in prison. In 1979 Collazo was released and sent back to Puerto Rico. President Truman dedicated a memorial plaque on the fence of Blair House on May 21, 1952 to honor Leslie Coffelt for his service.