SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. — A U.S. Border Patrol agent killed last week in an apparent case of friendly fire was remembered Monday as a loving family man, while hundreds of uniformed law enforcement officers lined the streets to watch a horse-drawn carriage carry his flag-draped coffin to the funeral.
Agent Nicholas Ivie grew to love horses at a young age, and dozens of agents on horseback led the five-mile procession, paying special tribute by trailing his riderless prized horse, nicknamed Mouse for its rounded ears.
They remembered Ivie as a man who wouldn’t have wanted loved ones and colleagues shedding tears over his death.
He had a motto he often repeated in tough times, his brother, Joel, said: “Cowboy up.”
“If Nick were here he’d say, ‘Guys, I’m taken care of. Just take care of my girls, my wife and my family,”’ Joel Ivie, also an agent, said during the funeral.
Ivie was killed last Tuesday as he and two other agents responded to a sensor alarm aimed at detecting smugglers crossing into the U.S. The shooting occurred at night about five miles north of the border near Bisbee.
The FBI said the incident appeared to be friendly fire involving only the agents.
Joel Ivie described his brother as a selfless man who “never said a bad word about anyone.”
“Nick’s girls were his pride and joy,” he said of his brother’s two young daughters.
While choking back tears, Joel Ivie said his brother loved the rugged hills of the remote border territory he patrolled.
“Nick died in a beautiful place. The hills he was working in, he was very familiar with,” he said.
Fellow agent and neighbor Aaron Kerr said Ivie “lived a life of quiet dignity.”
“He was the type of agent everybody wanted to work with,” Kerr said, periodically wiping tears from his eyes.
The standing-room-only funeral was held at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meeting house in the small town of Sierra Vista, about 30 miles west of where the shooting occurred.
The crowd chuckled when Kerr recounted Ivie’s favorite breakfast — brownies and Dr Pepper.
“He was just a good old boy,” Kerr said.
Meanwhile, the investigation continued into the shooting that also injured an agent who has since been released from the hospital.
Joel Ivie said he was told his brother had installed the sensor the three agents were responding to that night.
The head of the U.S. Border Patrol agents’ union said Ivie apparently opened fire on his two colleagues thinking they were armed smugglers, and was killed when they shot back.
Ivie, 30, apparently fired first but it remained unclear why, National Border Patrol Council President George McCubbin said.
McCubbin and Acting Cochise County Sheriff Rod Rothrock, who is assisting in the investigation, said Ivie knew the two other agents also were heading to the area on foot, and they knew he was responding. But the three apparently didn’t know they were so close together.
“It was dark, very, very rugged terrain, and what they could see of each other was further obscured by the fact that there was brush and cacti and stuff like that between them,” Rothrock said.
When the agents spotted each other in the dark, “they apparently took defensive postures, which was probably interpreted as aggressive postures,” he said. Rothrock has said he doubted any criminal charges would be filed.