Friendly fire blamed in death of federal agents on Arizona-Mexico border


A US Border Patrol vehicle moves along the border fence with Mexico on June 22, 2011 in Nogales, Arizona.


John Moore

Friendly fire was probably to blame in the fatal shooting of a federal agent and wounding of another along the Arizona-Mexico border, the FBI said.

FBI Special Agent in Charge James L. Turgal said in a statement reported by the Associated Press on Saturday that:

"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."

Ivie, 30, was one of three agents responding on foot to a tripped ground sensor in a well-known smuggling corridor near the border town of Naco before dawn last Tuesday when gunfire erupted, Reuters reported.

He was shot and killed while a second agent was shot in the ankle and buttocks and a third agent was unharmed.

Turgal didn’t elaborate on the agency’s conclusions but said the FBI was using "all necessary investigative, forensic and analytical resources in the course of this investigation" into the incident.

The ground sensors are planted to detect smugglers and others illegally entering the US.

Investigators used ballistic testing to determine the shootings were likely the result of so-called friendly fire among the agents, according to the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, which is helping the FBI in the probe.

Reuters noted that Ivie was the fourth Border Patrol agent to die in violent circumstances in less than two years in Arizona.

US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she was "deeply saddened by the death a fallen colleague," the BBC reported, adding that she had flown to Arizona to review the case.