From 9/11 to Sutherland Springs, the face of the FBI San Antonio District retires after 26 years

On his last day, Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs talks about the good, the bad and the ugly memories

SAN ANTONIO – The memorabilia and the honors from a career in the FBI are everywhere in Christopher Combs’ office, but they are far from the only memories he carries with him as he leaves his job as the special agent in charge for the San Antonio District of the federal agency.

In a far-reaching interview with KSAT anchor Steve Spriester, Combs spoke about everything from Sutherland Springs to the emotional toll of the job.

Combs, a native New Yorker who had never been to San Antonio before being transferred, says he has fallen in love with the Alamo City.

“The minute I got here, I realized I’m never leaving,” Combs told KSAT’s Steve Spriester.

Special Agent Combs has been the local face of the FBI for eight years. He is the person answering questions at crime scenes, often trying to piece together the most horrible crimes you can imagine. The sprawling San Antonio FBI District runs from Brownsville, along the border, then north through San Antonio, Austin and Waco.

Direct and to the point, he is an FBI agent through and through, but Combs is also very candid about the “on the job” events that shaped him professionally and personally.

“I think the biggest event in my career was being at the Pentagon on 9/11, six minutes after that plane hit. And then I was the FBI commander at the Pentagon on 9/11,” Combs said.

He leaves as the bureau’s longest-serving special agent, eight years in San Antonio and 26 years with the FBI.

Combs said the case he’s most proud of is catching the Austin serial bomber before he killed again.

“We brought 600 FBI Agents into Austin. We were able to catch that bomber working with the Austin police, working with the state police, the ATF, all of the partners. And we saved lives there, and I’m very proud of that,” Combs said.

The case that affected Combs the most was the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.

“I’ve been to five active shooters. That was one of them. That was the worst thing I’ve ever been involved with -- the tragedy of it, the horror of it. It’s hard and, you know, we don’t really divorce ourselves. I think that’s what people believe,” Combs said. “But, you know, FBI agents are just people, right? And that horror affected us greatly and affects me to this day, affects my people to this day. Like that’s just horror, and it’s horrible, and unless you’ve been in there and seen something like that, it’s hard to even describe it to you -- what that could do.”

As for current threats, there’s one that stands out to Agent Combs --ongoing threats to the Jewish Community, like the synagogue attack in Dallas.

“Our domestic terrorism squad here and in Austin is very dedicated to looking at that threat and to making sure that we’re ahead of it, that we’re identifying the people that are threatening the Jewish community,” Combs said.

It’s a concern he says he will carry with him long after leaving. Along with that, he also has faith in the FBI, an agency that he says is in good hands.

“I believe in this job. I serve God, and that was my calling. And you know, I’m happy to walk out after 26 years at a great career and a great FBI and a great city. I really am,” Combs said.

Combs also talked about crime rates and getting bad officers off the streets. You can see more from his interview with KSAT’s Steve Spriester in a “Breakdown Extra with #StephandSteve” in the video player below.

Christopher Combs, special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Antonio District, spoke about crime rates and getting bad officers off the streets with KSAT’s Steve Spriester in a “Breakdown Extra with #StephandSteve."


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About the Author:

Steve Spriester started at KSAT in 1995 as a general assignments reporter. Now, he anchors the station's top-rated 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts.