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David is the head of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare and is in charge of the GD (genetically damaged) and GP (genetically pure) experiments. He met Natalie Prior and became friends with her after she was rescued from the fringe as a young girl.
However, unknown to her, he loved her. When Natalie was placed in the Chicago experiment, he maintained correspondence with her via her journal. When she chooses to move to Abnegation with Andrew Prior and settle down with him, he stops correspondence with her due to his jealousy. He does not send any help to the city when she is in danger as a result of which she dies.
When Tris Prior, Tobias Eaton, Uriah Pedrad, Peter Hayes, Caleb Prior and Christina come to the Bureau, he meets them and informs them of the experiment and their purpose. He then tells Tris that he knew her mother. Tris believes him, but however, she does not trust him. At one point, she even uses him as a shield, though he appreciates that she is willing to sacrifice him for the greater good. Although at that time she also saved him after he was shot multiple times. He then offers her a position of a board member in training (of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare), which she accepts.
During their time at the Bureau, back in the city, the Factionless, led by Evelyn Johnson and the Allegiant, led by Marcus Eaton and Johanna Reyes, began a war. David and his colleagues were concerned about the major loss of good genetic material that could come from it and decide to reset the memories of those in the Chicago experiment by releasing Abnegation's memory serum into the air.
After Tris learns of the plan, she, along with Tobias, Caleb, Christina, Peter, Cara, Nita, and Matthew, come up with their own plan to save the city, which is to limit the spread of the memory serum to the Bureau compound so that the only the leaders of the Bureau would be affected.
When Tris takes Caleb's place and breaks into the Weapons Lab, she inexplicably survives the death serum. However, when she reaches the Weapons Lab, David is there with a loaded gun. David was able to go through the death serum due to the inoculation that only he had. While trying to disable the memory serum, Tris is shot in the neck by David, after the latter revealed that he loved Tris' mother. Tris manages to disable the serum, but she dies right afterward. David's memory is erased along with the other leaders'. Therefore, he has no memory of being Tris' killer.