Law enforcement is long, hard work. Just ask Candice DeLong.
In an informative lecture on Tuesday night, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent shared riveting stories with the audience about her life before, during and after the FBI. The stories covered everything from drug raids to the arrest of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.
DeLong was born in 1950 and raised in Phoenix, Ariz.
While in college, DeLong found nursing to be her passion. “I went to college and picked up a nursing degree. I found that working with the less fortunate and the mentally ill became my calling,” she said. “I was working around people with severe emotional and behavioral disorders.”
The difficult time she spent dealing with violent mental patients in Chicago hospitals “toughened her up” for the challenges she would later face as a federal agent. A delusional patient even threatened DeLong’s life on one occasion. That same patient later killed his father with an ice pick after being released.
“I worked on the front lines of the FBI for twenty years, but that particular incident was the most terrifying moment of my life,” she said.
After spending about ten years as a head nurse, DeLong started looking for other career opportunities. In 1978, an FBI agent approached DeLong about joining the bureau. She applied and was accepted for training. As a recruit, she learned how to shoot and how to box, which were standard training protocol.
“After I passed the examination, I went to Quantico (Virginia) for 16 weeks of intensive training, both [in the] classroom and [on the] field. I was one of the only [few] women back then,” she said. DeLong was the 400th woman agent in the 8,000 man force.
After training, she became a profiler, which meant shadowing and surveying people suspected of a variety of crimes.
She profiled a terrorism case that began in 1981, involving members of a militant Puerto Rican terrorist group called the FALN, led by a man named Oscar Lopez, who was in jail. They were responsible for the placement of 120 bombs and at least six deaths.
It was discovered that members of FALN were planning to blow up an armory and to break Lopez out of federal prison. They were arrested three days before it was scheduled to occur.
“We saved a lot of lives that day, and the terrorists didn’t even know what hit them. It was very precise and planned out,” she said.
Perhaps DeLong is best known for her role in the apprehension of the Unabomber, who was responsible for the deaths and injuries of dozens of people from 1978 until 1996. It was the FBI’s longest running case in their history.
“After they had pinpointed the residence of Kaczynski in Montana, I was selected with two other agents to do the profiling work. We had to build probable cause for a search warrant, which took a few months,” she explained. After the FBI moved in on April 3, 1996, DeLong was one of three agents involved with the original interrogation of Kaczynski. She considers it a pinnacle in her 20-year career at the bureau.
DeLong now travels the lecture circuit and works for the San Francisco Child abduction task force. She has found new meaning in her life with the organization.
“Just returning kidnapped children to their parents and seeing the looks on the mothers’ and childrens’ faces makes the whole job worth it. It gives great meaning to the work.”