William Sheldon Jr., ATF agent, 47, dies of World Trade Center-related cancer

Lanning Taliaferro, New City Patch

William Charles Sheldon, Jr. passed away on March 2, 2015 after a courageous battle with cancer. He was born on November 17, 1967 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to William Charles, Sr. and Judith (Roughton) Sheldon. After living briefly in Milwaukee and Mentor, Ohio, Bill’s family moved to New City, New York; a suburb of New York City. He graduated from Clarkstown High School South in West Nyack, NY in 1986. He received a degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Miami in 1992.

William Sheldon

William Sheldon

Bill’s distinguished law enforcement career began in 1993 when he went to work as an Immigration Officer for the United States Office of Immigration and Naturalization. As a field agent in the Miami office, he investigated and tracked down illegal and criminal immigrants and initiated the adjudication process in the court system. Bill worked for INS for 6 years. He then attended the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Georgia; the training facility for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. After graduation with distinction/honors, Bill was sworn in as an ATF Special Agent and assigned to a Queens, New York office. He investigated many cases involving the illegal use, trade and sale of various firearms. He is responsible for removing many weapons from the streets of New York and the apprehension of numerous criminals.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Bill was on his way to his Queens, NY office when he learned of the terrorist attacks in New York City. He immediately responded to ground zero. While attempting to report to NYC-ATF headquarters at One World Trade Center, the second World Trade Center building collapsed. As millions of tons of dust and debris rained down around him, Bill encouraged citizens away from the area. He has been identified and recognized as a 9-11 first responder. In 2014, the 9-11 Commission [sic] certified that Bill’s cancer was caused by toxins he breathed in during his response to the attacks.

Bill worked in the Queens, NY office for 7 years. During this time in New York, Bill also realized a lifelong goal to serve in the United States Armed Forces. In 2004/2005, he enlisted in the United States Army and was assigned to the 69th Infantry Regiment; part of the New York Army National Guard. It is known as the Fighting Sixty-Ninth. The regiment is a single light infantry battalion. In 2008, approximately 300 soldiers from the 69th, including Bill, deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom; where it assisted in stability operations and training Afghan security forces.

Bill served one year in the remote town of Musa Qala in Helmand Province. Musa Qala was the sight of several battles between Taliban and NATO forces. During an evening patrol, Bill’s unit came under enemy attack. A vehicle in the convoy hit an IED (improvised explosive device). While medics attended to the injured, Bill and his unit exchanged gunfire with enemy forces. On other occasions, Bill came under direct enemy attack forcing him to return fire. For his military service, Bill received the National Defense Service Medal, Army Services Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Pathfinder Badge, Army Commendation Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal and NATO Medal.

In 2009, Bill was honorably discharged from the Army and returned to field work for the ATF; taking an assignment in Orlando, Florida. In Orlando, Bill continued his work investigating illegal gun cases. He is responsible for the successful investigation of several cases, the removal of many illegal weapons from the streets of Florida and the arrest and prosecution of several gun traffickers.

Bill enjoyed the outdoors and family vacations. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was a great storyteller. He also treasured a weekly family tradition. He and his son John would mow the lawn together then the family would meet around the kitchen table for a pancake breakfast. He was an avid fan of University of Miami football; watching every game he could on television and attending many games in person.

Bill is survived by his wife Gabriela and their two children, John, 8 and Anna, 5. He is also survived by his parents William Sr. and Judith, a sister Elizabeth, brother-in-law Scott and nephew Joshua, 8 and by his mother-in-law, Tsedale Gebretsadik and brothers-in-law: Jimmy, Abi, Michael and Armias. He is also survived by a wide and loyal circle of colleagues throughout law enforcement.

A visitation will be held at Collison Family Funeral Home, 3806 Howell Branch Rd., Winter Park, FL on Sunday, March 8 from 2-5 PM. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church, 5300 Old Howell Branch Rd., Winter Park, FL on Monday, March 9 at 11 a.m.

A Graveside Service with Military Honors will be held at Culpeper National Cemetery, 305 US Ave., Culpeper, VA on Thursday, March 12 at 12 Noon. Arrangements have been entrusted to Money and King Funeral Home and Collison Family Funeral Home. Online condolences and fond memories of Bill may be offered to the family at www.moneyandking.com.

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