SAN DIEGO — For the first time at FBI San Diego, the bureau’s top cop or special agent in charge is of Asian American descent.

SAC Stacey Moy, who grew up in San Diego, spoke to FOX 5 about how he navigated his APPI heritage and rose to one of the bureau’s highest ranks.

Moy was instrumental in the takedown of one of the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives and led high-profile Operations like Mic Drop and Trojan Shield — operations that could inspire the next action movie. 

But Moy had humble beginnings as a kid from Solana Beach, a third generation Chinese American whose father worked for the Navy.

“As a Chinese American, I knew there were not too many of folks that looked similar to me,” says Moy. 

Moy graduated from Torrey Pines High School and was faced with his own challenges with finding where he belonged. 

“For me, growing up in Southern California, I was less interested in doing the traditional Asian-related things like learning a musical instrument, or doing Chinese-language school, which was super naïve as a kid. And now I look back at it as being naïve but at the time, I wanted to assimilate to be someone that was seen as American at first,” Moy said.

He found his fit in the U.S. Navy, graduating from the Naval Academy in 1998. He was commissioned and served as an officer in the Surface Warfare and Naval Special Warfare communities. 

“What motivated me to go to the Naval Academy, to go to the military and also serve in some of the hardest, most grueling communities to include the FBI and the SWAT team, etc., was because maybe there was some chip on my shoulder,” Moy said. “Maybe I’m not good enough. How do I prove my worth? How do I prove to others I belong?”

He then joined the FBI as a special agent in 2004 and served on the SWAT team. He was promoted to top leadership positions in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco before becoming Special Agent in Charge in San Diego.

Read Liberty Zabala’s interview with Moy below.

Zabala: “It seems like to me that you always looked for the toughest jobs and wanted the toughest jobs? Is that accurate?”

Moy: “Yes.”

Zabala: “Why?”

Moy: “I think it is that unconscious bias, like I had that ‘imposter syndrome’ like I’m not good enough and how do I prove that? Is to put myself up through the paces, put myself up through the ranks.”

Growing up, he says he never experience blatant racism but did experience microaggressions.

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the bureau saw a 77% rise in Anti-Asian hate crimes from the year before.

Zabala: “We have our own issues locally with AAPIs being targets of hate or violence. How important is that issue to you, and what is the bureau doing?”

Moy: “I would say there’s probably no more important, passionate issue I feel than that of hate crimes toward the Asian community, being a member of the Asian community, having children that are of Asian decent. I think there is a certain amount of calling to get involved as much as I can.”

Zabala: “How important is it to reflect the community you serve? You are, is this correct, the only APPI FBI SAC across the country?”

Moy: “Currently, right now, yes.”

Zabala: “The only in San Diego?”

Moy: “Yes.”

Zabala: “Of the special agents in the bureau, according to your 2022 numbers, a little over 20% are ethnic and of that a little over 3% are AAPI.”

Moy: “Yes, that is correct. Those numbers are way out of whack with where we should be … Could be better. So one of the chief concerns of our office of diversity and inclusion along with all these diversity advisory committees is recruitment. We’re trying to ensure that those folks have a voice.”

Moy’s second in command is Assistant Special Agent in Charge John Kim, who is also AAPI.

“For me, it’s been such an amazing moment and proud moment and as a Korean American to be able to be in this position,” Kim told FOX 5, adding that he thinks the face of the FBI is changing.

But Moy says the bureau still has a long way to go, and he aims to help leave here with a legacy of helping that change.

“The essence is ‘leave things better than you found them’,” Moy said. “I would want to leave this in a better place than when we found it.”

Moy says the bureau also created Diversity Advisory Committees to help improve and increase diversity within its rank.