WASHINGTON — At 3:18 a.m. last Friday, a federal agent undercover on a task force was quietly switching out a tracking device planted on a vehicle on a dark street on Chicago’s South Side.
It was a routine maneuver for the agent, who was less than a year out of the training academy of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He had been sent to Chicago as part of a Trump administration push to tackle the city’s gun crisis.
But with a burst of gunshots, that Friday morning turned catastrophic. The agent was shot in the head, then thrown into a car by a fellow agent and rushed to a hospital. “I’m coming in — just take me to the hospital,” the driving agent yelled over the police scanner. “Officer hit; we need escort to a hospital now!”
The shooting of the undercover agent, who is expected to fully recover, has drawn attention to the group he was assigned to, the Crime Gun Strike Force. Established by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in June to combat gun trafficking and violence in Chicago, the task force is one of the most concrete examples of his efforts to fight gun violence. Twenty A.T.F. agents were assigned to it.
Chicago, which has long struggled with trafficking and illegal guns, has served as a larger symbol of violent crime for President Trump, who routinely mentions the city when speaking about gun violence. If effective, the task force could serve as a model as he seeks to fulfill his promises to tackle violent crime.
“The Chicago Gun Strike Force, sending 20 more permanent A.T.F. agents and adding more federal prosecutors, has contributed significantly to the effort” of making Chicago safer, Mr. Sessions said in a statement. “If we support and affirm our police and proven enforcement policies, Chicago can recover.”
Mr. Sessions criticized the Chicago Police Department for a 2015 agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union that overhauled the department’s use of stop-and-frisk tactics, which involved stopping residents for what officers viewed as suspicious behavior. Mr. Sessions called that agreement “a huge mistake” and cited it as a reason for an increased federal presence in the city.
The impact of the strike force is difficult to capture in a city like Chicago, where local law enforcement initiatives and federal muscle have affected the fluctuating rates of homicides and shootings for decades. But the task force has contributed to a number