Border patrol agent Nicholas Ivie, 30, was killed after he and two other… (Tucson Sector Border Patrol )
Border Patrol officials have identified the agent shot and killed Tuesday during a patrol south of Tucson as Nicholas Ivie, an almost five-year veteran of the agency.
Ivie, 30, was killed after he and two other agents responded to an unusual sensor reading near Highway 80 about 7 miles east of Bisbee, Border Patrol officials said in a statement.
“Tucson Sector mourns the loss of one of our own. It stands as a reminder of the dangers that agents of [Customs and Border Protection] face every day. We appreciate our state, local, federal and international partners for their support and commitment in seeking justice in this tragedy,” said Acting Chief Patrol Agent Manuel Padilla.
Another Border Patrol agent was also shot; he was taken to a hospital and was in stable condition Tuesday afternoon with non-life-threatening injuries, according to the statement.
“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with Agent Ivie’s family during this terrible time,” said Border Patrol Joint Field Commander Jeffrey D. Self. “This is a tragic loss for Customs and Border Protection. We have an unwavering commitment to pursue and bring the perpetrators of this heinous act to justice.”
Ivie was a native of Provo, Utah, and joined Border Patrol in January 2008, according to the statement. A Facebook page that appears to belong to Ivie shows a man with a woman and two small children.
The FBI and Cochise County Sheriff's Office were still investigating the circumstances of the shooting.
Ivie was patrolling the area with a pair of agents after being alerted that a sensor had been tripped, according to Cochise County Sheriff's Commander Marc Denney.
Denney told the Los Angeles Times that agents were ambushed. The agents radioed that they had come under fire, he said, attacked by three or four people who appear to have fled on foot into the rocky hills.
It was not clear whether the agents returned fire, and Border Patrol spokesmen declined to provide more details about the shooting.
By the time deputies responded, the gunmen had disappeared, Denney said.
"Whether they were picked up in another vehicle is unknown,” Denney said, adding that the gunmen had ample time to flee and hide. “They had a bit of a jump on us.”
Denney said the motive for the shooting was still "highly unknown."
“We’ve worked that area pretty significantly over the years,” he said of the shooting site, a known smuggling area for both drugs and, to a lesser extent, people.
“You never know what you’re going to run across out there,” Denney said. “It’s a very rough area — it’s mountainous, rocky, loose rock, low vegetation. It’s hard terrain to maneuver around. There’s not a lot of trail systems in place. You’re just trying to work your way around and not turn an ankle.”
Grim, familiar news to Border Patrol
The last Border Patrol agent fatally shot on duty was Brian Terry, 40, who died in a shootout near the Arizona border town of Rio Rico in December 2010. The Border Patrol station in Naco, Ariz. -- where the agents shot Tuesday were stationed -- was recently named after Terry.
Terry's family released a statement to The Times on Tuesday calling the latest shooting "a tragic reminder of the dangers faced by the brave men and women who patrol our borders and keep our nation safe. It is also a graphic reminder of the inherent dangers that threaten the safety of those who live and work near the border."
Two guns used in Terry's shooting were later linked to the government's Fast and Furious gun-smuggling operation, and some members of Congress were already questioning Tuesday whether this latest shooting might be linked as well.
“I’m sure that, if there is any kind of connection, that will come out,” Denney said, noting that any firearms recovered from the scene would be traced and any possible Fast and Furious connections investigated.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee who authored a critical report on Fast and Furious, called Tuesday's shooting "a tragic reminder of the dangers the brave men and women who guard our borders face every day."
But he cautioned: "Authorities must investigate the full circumstances of this shooting. I urge everyone to think of the families of these agents and avoid drawing conclusions before relevant facts are known.”
Border security has been a concern in Cochise County, population 137,000, where 65 deputies patrol 6,215 square miles, including 83 miles of border.
“We’re shorthanded as is Border Patrol and every other law enforcement entity along the border,” Denney said.
Denney urged border residents to remain vigilant.