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Border Patrol Agent's Death May Have Been Accidental

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The FBI says there are strong preliminary indications that the killing of a Border Patrol agent earlier this week was accidental. Melissa Block talks with NPR's Ted Robbins about the ongoing investigation of the shooting along the Arizona-Mexico border.


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. There's new information tonight about the shooting of two border patrol agents along the Arizona-Mexico border earlier this week. One of the agents was killed in that incident. Well, the FBI now says that there are strong preliminary indications that the shooting was accidental and only involved the agents on the scene. NPR's Ted Robbins is following the story and joins me from Tucson. And, Ted, it sounds like the FBI is saying this is a case of friendly fire. What more do you know?

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Yeah. Pretty dramatic, Melissa. It's a - in that it's coming so soon. We have been hearing rumors for - pretty much for two days or so. And the FBI late this afternoon released a statement. And that is - let me read you the line that really count, I think. Quote, "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." Stresses that there is an ongoing investigation, they're still doing forensic analysis and ballistic on the guns. But the fact that this happened early Tuesday morning and that this is only Friday and they've already come to this conclusion is, let's say, I think is quite dramatic.

BLOCK: Well, what's known about what exactly happened in that shooting?

ROBBINS: Well, you had three agents patrolling, sort of normally patrolling the area on horseback, two man and a woman. It was dark, early morning, Tuesday, rugged terrain, a sensor in the ground - and there are many of those along the border - went off. They went up a trail near the sensor to investigate and, apparently, that's when it all broke loose. Agent Ivie was killed. The other male agent was wounded, and he is recovering. The female agent was not wounded.

Then the Mexican government, a couple of days later, said that they had arrested two men and they were holding them across the line in Mexico, in jail. Now, it does not appear that they're responsible. But we still don't know if, in fact, there were any smugglers in the area. It could have been smugglers setting off this. It could have, in fact, been a cow.

BLOCK: Ted, memories are still quite fresh about the shooting of the Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry a couple of years ago in that Fast and Furious scandal. What is known about this area and how common it would be for Border Patrol to come into contact with smugglers even though it appears now that that's not at all what happened here?

ROBBINS: Right. It is very common. This is about - this happened about 100 miles east of where Brian Terry was shot. And it is very common. There's been smuggling as long as there's been a border pretty much, you know, probably liquor during Prohibition in this area, even. But these guys don't want to mix it up with American law enforcement. It's, to be honest and blunt, it's bad for business.

BLOCK: Ted, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited the family of Agent Ivie, who was killed. You've spoken with the Border Patrol today. What do they have to say about the FBI's preliminary findings that this appears to be a case of friendly fire?

ROBBINS: Yeah. They made a statement, the head of the Border Patrol for Arizona, in which they simply just gave their condolences and said that this was a tragic accident. They said it does not diminish the fact that Agent Ivie died serving his country or, in fact, that it's very dangerous out there.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Ted Robbins in Tucson. Ted, thanks so much.

ROBBINS: You're welcome.

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