PHOENIX — Friendly fire likely was to blame in a shooting near the Arizona-Mexico line that killed one federal agent and wounded another, the FBI said, noting the investigation was still ongoing in the case that reignited the political debate over border security.
“There are strong preliminary indications that the death of United States Border Patrol Agent Nicholas J. Ivie and the injury to a second agent was the result of an accidental shooting incident involving only the agents,” FBI Special Agent in Charge James L. Turgal Jr. said in a statement Friday.
Turgal didn’t elaborate on its conclusions but said the FBI is using “all necessary investigative, forensic and analytical resources as it investigates the Tuesday shooting about five miles north of the border near Bisbee.
Ivie was killed after he and two other agents responded to an alarm triggered by a sensor aimed at detecting smugglers and others entering the U.S. illegally.
Another agent was wounded but was released from the hospital after surgery. The third agent was uninjured.
Federal investigators used ballistic testing to determine the shootings likely resulted from friendly fire, according to the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, which is assisting the FBI in the probe.
Jeffrey D. Self, commander of Customs and Border Protection’s Joint Field Command-Arizona, said that despite the initial findings that the shootings appeared accidental, Ivie still “gave the ultimate sacrifice and died serving his country.”
“The fact is the work of the Border Patrol is dangerous,” Self said Friday at a news conference in Tucson.
While federal authorities declined to offer details of the shooting, George McCubbin, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said all three agents fired their weapons.
McCubbin told The Arizona Republic that the agents had split up as they investigated the sensor alarm.