“Frigid winds blew and a gray, cheerless sky draped itself over Hudson Wednesday, Oct. 9, as one of its natives came home for the last time.”
That was how the Star-Observer story about the funeral of fallen FBI agent Robin Ahrens opened in October 1985.
Ahrens was just 33 when she was fatally wounded in a shootout in Phoenix, just six months after becoming a special agent. She died on Oct. 5, 1985. She was the first female agent in the history of the bureau to die in the line of duty. She was killed during a stakeout at a Phoenix apartment complex of an armed robbery suspect. An investigation into the shooting revealed that Ahrens was shot by two other agents who mistakenly believed she was the girlfriend of the suspect.
Ahrens’ funeral took place at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, then on Fourth Street and it was attended by hundreds of people including then FBI Director William Webster. Five of the six pallbearers were agents Ahrens had trained with at Quantico, the FBI Academy in Virginia.
Ahrens grew up in Hudson, the daughter of the late Robert Ahrens and the late Marjorie Ahrens, and one of six children including her sister Susan and brothers Fred, James, Patrick and Christian. She graduated from Hudson High School in 1970 and received a degree from Utah State University. She was a school teacher and it was on a field trip with students to the FBI Academy that she became interested in becoming an agent.
Phoenix was her first field assignment.
Robin Ahrens name can be found in the FBI Hall of Honor at the FBI Academy in Quantico. It is in an area used for gatherings and parties including graduation ceremonies like the one she was part of just months before her tragic death.
In 1986 members of the Ahrens family traveled to Phoenix to attend the dedication of Robin L. Ahrens Building. The building in downtown Phoenix is home to the FBI there and other law enforcement agencies. Framed tributes to Robin from then President Ronald Reagan and Attorney General Edwin Meese were presented to the family. FBI Director William Webster spoke at the dedication.
In October 1991, her father, Bob, traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the dedication of the National Law Enforcement Memorial. His daughter’s name is inscribed on one of the marble panels of the memorial, section 25W, on one of the two 300 foot walls.
What happened to Special Agent Ahrens and the mistakes that led to her death are now part of new agent training according to retired FBI Special Agent Lisa Nielsen.
In September 2005, HHS classmates at their 35th reunion came up with the idea to nominate Ahrens for the school’s Wall of Fame as a HHS Distinguished Alumnus. She received that award posthumously during homecoming week. Her older brother, Jim Ahrens, attended the ceremony and accepted the honor on his sister’s behalf.
“Robin joined the (FBI)academy and worked very hard to get through it. She was very happy with her achievement and she was in a very good place when this happened. Her life was a good one; just way too short,” said her brother.
Ahrens’ classmates from HHS Class of 1970 and teachers from Hudson High School have contributed to the Robin L. Ahrens Memorial Scholarship Fund.
FBI agents came to Hudson High School in October 2012 to honor Ahrens and to present additional scholarship funds in her name to be awarded to a female senior who is pursuing a career in criminal justice. The $1,500 scholarship was made possible through donations by fellow FBI agents around the country with additional money added annually.
The first scholarship was awarded in 2008 and goes to a graduating student who is interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement. The scholarships have gone to Kristin Feisel, Megan Zabel, Dominic Meinke, Alexander Willi, Alexander Burgess, Leaha Ross and Devin Cicha.