By Robert Bao
PROFILE (SPRING 2009)
JAMES BOTTING: BULLETS, BOMBS AND FAST TALK
Wounded Knee. Patty Hearst. TWA 847. Cuban Prison Riots. Rodney King. Ruby Ridge. Waco. In almost every nationally prominent hostage incident or armed standoff over the past 35 years, one FBI agent—James Botting, M.S. ’66—was involved as a key player. A 25-year veteran who specialized in hostage negotiation and SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) activities, Botting survived all these ordeals and now tells the behind-the-scenes stories in Bullets, Bombs and Fast Talk (Potomac Books, 2008). “Sometimes we were good,” says Jim, “and sometimes we were lucky.” He vividly recounts experiences where he literally faced death—such as confronting an armed plane hijacker, executing arrest warrants in “fortified cocaine rock houses in South Central L.A.,” and the 1974 shootout with the Symbionese Liberation Army in downtown Los Angeles. “I was very, very fortunate,” he muses. “Never got shot, but had a lot of physical injuries.” He also discusses the evolution of hostage negotiation, where he had a front-row seat as an early member of the FBI’s Critical Incident Negotiation Team and a longtime member of the Crisis Negotiation Team in Los Angeles. “It was a fascinating job,” says Jim. “Every day there was another crisis.” After retiring from the FBI in 1995, Jim spent six years as director of security at MGM Studios. In 2002 he became chief of police of the Ventura County Community College District. In 2007, he was inducted into the MSU School of Criminal Justice’s Wall of Fame. A native of Grand Rapids, Jim touts the education he received at MSU. He also remains a huge fan of the FBI. “The FBI is just an incredible organization,” he says. “I always encourage young people who are interested in criminal justice to consider the FBI.”
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In 1990, Botting, the FBI agent in charge of Crisis Negotiation Team, also worked as a SWAT team leader in Los Angeles.