PHOENIX (AP) — 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 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, 30, 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, and released from a hospital after surgery; the third agent was uninjured.
Federal investigators used ballistic testing to determine that the shootings likely resulted from friendly fire, according to the Cochise County Sheriff's Office, which is assisting the FBI in the probe.
A spokesman for the Ivie family said how the agent died changes little.
"Quite honestly, the circumstances that surround exactly what happened will do nothing to bring Nick back," Kevin Goates, Sierra Vista stake president for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told The Arizona Republic. "Those are just details.
"The fact is he is gone, and that is what the family is focusing on and their time together and their time for healing," Goates said.
Ivie is survived by his wife, Christy, and two young daughters, plus his parents and siblings.
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 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.