BISBEE — U.S. Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie was fatally shot as a result of friendly fire earlier this week in a remote area of the desert in southern Cochise County, authorities announced Friday.
The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office called the event "a tragedy for the United States Border Patrol and all law enforcement agencies nationwide," in a statement issued Friday.
Ivie, 30, was fatally shot around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, after he and two other agents responded to a ground sensor alert near mile marker 352 on Highway 80 about seven miles east of Bisbee and about five miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The incident is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office. According to the Sheriff’s Office, the FBI completed ballistic testing and came to the indisputable conclusion that this was an instance of "friendly fire."
"While it is important to emphasize that the FBI’s investigation is actively continuing, 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 released Friday.
During the shooting incident, a female agent was not injured, one male agent received two serious but non-life threatening gunshot injuries, and one male agent, Nicholas Ivie, was fatally wounded. The injured agent was airlifted to a Tucson hospital for surgery, and he has since been released.
Ivie, 30, was airlifted to the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office by Border Patrol air support Tuesday for the completion of an autopsy. His body was transported to the Hatfield Funeral Home in Sierra Vista on Wednesday, and his funeral took place Monday in Sierra Vista at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was a native of Provo, Utah, and joined the Border Patrol in January, 2008.
Attorney Sean Chapman, who represents the wounded agent, told the Herald/Review, "on behalf of my client I can say that he has been fully cooperative. He is not a suspect in a criminal event. He is simply a witness and he hasn’t done anything wrong and nobody thinks he did anything wrong."
Jim Calle, the attorney who is representing the female agent, told the Herald/Review that his client is cooperating with law enforcement officials in this investigation, adding, "We are scheduling an interview for this next week, and after that I will feel more free to make any comments about the situation."
According to the FBI statement, the agency is utilizing all necessary investigative, forensic and analytical resources in the course of this investigation. The FBI thanked Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol and the Sheriff’s Office for cooperating.
"The FBI extends our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family, friends and co-workers of Nicholas Ivie and to our partners in the United States Border Patrol," the agency stated. And, Sheriff’s Office Chief Rod Rothrock stated, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the agents involved, their families, and their co-workers."
The FBI added that at the appropriate time, additional information will be provided, but while the investigation continues it would be inappropriate to comment any further at this time. The Sheriff’s Office’s final investigative processing and procedures will not be completed until later next week.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited Cochise County on Friday to meet with family members of Ivie to express condolences, and to meet with federal, state and local law enforcement officials at the Brian Terry Border Patrol Station in Naco for a briefing on the ongoing investigation.
Napolitano was joined by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner David V. Aguilar and CBP Commander of Arizona Joint Field Command Jeffrey Self. She arrived at the Border Patrol Station in Bisbee at about 10:30 a.m. and left at about 2:30 p.m. They also surveyed the U.S.-Mexico border area where the incident occurred.
“I am deeply saddened by the death of our fallen colleague; this tragedy reminds us of the risks our men and women confront, the dangers they willingly undertake, while protecting our nation’s borders,” Napolitano stated in a statement. “Together, we stand in solidarity with their families and friends, and pray for the continued safety of all who serve our country.”
During a press briefing in Tucson on Friday, Commander Self told members of the media that he met with Ivie’s family and he explained to them if the investigation reaches the conclusion that this shooting was the result of friendly fire, then it changes none of the following facts:
"That Agent Ivie gave the ultimate sacrifice and died serving his country; that he died in the line of duty and will be honored as such for his final act of service; that Agent Ivie served for more than six years protecting this country against those who threaten our way of life; and that he will be remembered by all of us who served along side him for his character, his kindness and his loyalty."