Manassas Park man killed in Afghanistan

MANASSAS PARK — The war came home Wednesday when residents of a town house community in Manassas Park learned that one of their own was the first American killed in action inside Afghanistan.

Johnny Michael “Mike” Spann, who lived with his wife and three young children on Lanae Lane, worked for the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, the part of the agency responsible for covert operations.

Spann joined the CIA in 1999 and was a paramilitary trooper within the Directorate of Operations. Prior to that, he served in the Marine Corps as an artillery specialist, reaching the rank of captain.

He was at a prison compound in Mazar-e-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, interrogating prisoners when a riot broke out and he was killed, according to the CIA.

The 32-year-old had been missing since Sunday.

Officials recovered his body from the prison compound only after Northern Alliance rebels backed by U.S. airstrikes and special forces quelled an uprising by Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners.

The CIA provided few details of the circumstances of his death.

CIA Director George J. Tenet addressed agency employees Wednesday morning, saying Spann was an American hero and calling on fellow officers to ”continue the mission that Mike Spann held sacred.”

”And so we will continue our battle against evil with renewed strength and spirit,” Tenet said, according to a statement provided by the agency.

The flag outside CIA headquarters in McLean flew at half-staff.

President Bush said through a spokesman he regretted the death. ”The president understands that this battle began Sept. 11,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said. ”There may be more injuries, there may be more deaths, and the president regrets each and every one.”

Many residents and members of the news media milled outside the family’s home Wednesday talking with each other and with any neighbor who might have known the Spann family.

The community was built approximately three years ago, residents said. Although many of the children played with each other, the neighborhood was not necessarily a close-knit community.

Even those who lived near Spann did not know he was in the CIA or what his role in the military was after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“He was a quiet man, but he was a family man and the family was very nice,” said Richard Faatz, 30, who is Spanns’ next-door neighbor.

“I read about it on the Internet today that he had been shot. I knew him and his ex-wife and we all got along. He has lived here for about three years, and his new wife moved in about six months ago. I knew he was a Marine, but I didn’t know what exactly it was he was doing. He is another hero, and this is another heartbreak.”

Spann’s wife, Shannon, their infant son and two young daughters had been out of the house for a few days, said Faatz.

“I don’t know where they went, or where they are now,” he said. “But, I can’t imagine what they are going through right now.”

Faatz said Shannon’s parents were often at the Spann home, and they had strong family support.

Before the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, Faatz said the Spann children had hung a banner on the house that said “Welcome home dad,” and that it was not unusual for Spann to be gone for substantial periods of time.

“He was gone a lot, and then a great deal of time after Sept. 11,” Faatz said. “We knew he used to be in the Marine Corps; he carried himself like a Marine, but I never heard him mention the attacks.”

Kim Holm lived across the street from the Spann family and said her daughter often played with his oldest daughter, Allison.

“I used to see [Mike] and his wife walk up and down the street a lot in the evening,” Holm said. “They liked to take walks as a family. My daughter was friends with their daughter and when [my daughter] got off the school bus I went and got her and told her. She was mad that it happened, and crying a lot.”

Although a small blue Geo Metro was parked in the driveway, a car neighbors said was a family car, no family members were at the house. Next door, Faatz had an American flag spread out on the front of his home. Close to it was a rolled up flag hanging from the pole at the Spann house.

His parents, Johnny and Gail Spann, live in Winfield, Ala., and in addition to his wife and three young children, Spann is also survived by two sisters.

“It is shocking and sad to have this happen to a member of our community,” said Candace Cleveland, a neighbor. “We didn’t know him, but it is so sad, and has really hit home. No one really knows each other very well, maybe that will change.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Staff writer Trina Goethals can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 121.

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