Magazine Feature / People

FBI and justice department recognize student’s courage

For most people, it would be enough to successfully recover from the physical wounds, violent trauma and loss of a spouse caused by a deadly ambush in a foreign country. But MA candidate Pasty Spier also had to make sure it would never happen again by bringing the killers to justice.

That’s why in late April Spier was recognized with the Strength of Human Spirit Award created specifically for her by the FBI’s Office of Victim Assistance. 

FBI Director Robert Mueller presented Spier with the award. “The strength of spirit Patsy demonstrated after the murders of her husband and friends, and her own injuries, was a constant source of inspiration to our special agents,” Mueller said, according to an FBI press release.

Five years ago in Papua, Indonesia, Patsy and her husband Rick (both teachers) were returning from a picnic in a caravan of friends when they were ambushed by gunfire. Two Americans and an Indonesian were killed, and 11 others were seriously wounded.

Making nearly 30 trips to Washington and working with U.S. and Indonesian officials at the highest levels, Spier’s determined pursuit to bring the killers to justice eventually led to the conviction of seven men. The men were part of a separatist group called the Free Papua Movement and claimed they mistook Spier’s group for Indonesian military.

“Patsy is an exceptional human being and was recognized as being such by just about everyone who she ran into in this town,” says Matt Daley, president of the U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations Business Council. Daley was one of the first people in D.C. that Spier called upon for help.

“Not only did she survive a vicious and brutal attack and survive the trauma associated with the death of her husband, but she was able to channel her resolve into getting two governments to devote the resources and to not lose sight of this case,” says Daley.

Spier also was honored in April by the U.S. Department of Justice with the Special Courage Award for “extraordinary bravery in the aftermath of a crime.” 

“I can only say that I was incredibly humbled and honored by both of these awards and I accepted them on behalf of all those in our U.S. government, the Indonesian government, the Papuan community and the many private citizens all over the world who did what they could to help attain justice,” says Spier, who will graduate in June with an MA in global studies.

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