Robert Bryant is still looking for a mad bomber who injured a local computer store employee two years ago.
Despite the passage of time, Bryant is sure the FBI will string together enough clues to catch the mysterious bomber, who is believed to be responsible for one death and 21 injuries nationally. In his explosive wake, the bomber left behind four Utah mysteries."We still haven't caught him. But you know what? We will, sooner or later," said Bryant, special agent in charge of the FBI's Salt Lake office.
Like the stories of fishermen, the criminals that get away cast long shadows for law enforcement officials. "That case is intriguing. It's a professional challenge. But he's also dangerous."
Robert "the Bear" Bryant is a big man who leans back in his chair, his cowboy boots bracing his weight alongside his massive desk. His paneled and beflagged office is commanding.
The Missouri native has commanded the FBI's Utah office since 1985, heading up investigations in white collar crime, international drug trafficking and government defense fraud.
His intelligence career included stints in Las Vegas, Kansas City and Dallas. The move to what he originally considered a "sleepy community" with a dubious reputation for its white-collar fraud wasn't an assignment he eagerly sought.
But the community support he found in Salt Lake City has charmed both Bryant and his family. Now he sings its praises, proclaiming his Utah stay his best assignment ever. "In my opinion, this is the best office in the FBI because the people are so good. I sound like a cheerleader."
The local bureau is one of the top five in the country for recruitment, he said. And he lists recent successes: cracking the Navajo police murders, completing an undercover penny stock fraud investigation, apprehending the Huntsman kidnappers. He said morale is high among his more than 100 employees.
Locally, Bryant is branded as the official who approved the psychological warfare during last year's siege at the Singer family farm in Marion.
He defends the controversial techniques, saying the Singer-Swapp clan was responsible for making a martyr out of Corrections Lt. Fred House. House is remembered with a prominently placed wall plaque in the bureau's downtown Federal Building offices.
"I called the arrest. I told the tactical teams to take them.
"The thing that should be remembered is they fired 200 rounds at law enforcement, and we fired two. They killed an officer."
Working for the FBI doesn't always offer the glamour of dime-store paperbacks or late-night TV. Bryant found that out in his first week on the job, when two of his training officers were killed by bank robbers.
Twenty years later, Bryant says witnessing his first crime at point-blank range was a dramatic training lesson. "You kind of do away with the storybook image of crime in the big city. That's very sobering. You don't forget that."
But the FBI offers its own rewards. When Bryant was a young attorney considering joining up, he promised his wife it would be just for a three-year stint. Today, he smiles when he mentions that broken promise. "I lied.