SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. – Family members and hundreds of uniformed law enforcement officers gathered Monday to mourn the U.S. Border Patrol agent killed last week in an apparent case of friendly fire, remembering him as a family man who wouldn’t want loved ones and colleagues shedding tears over his death.
Agent Nicholas Ivie was killed Oct. 2 as he and two other agents responded to a sensor alarm aimed at detecting smugglers crossing into the U.S.
The shooting occurred at night about five miles north of the border near Bisbee.
The FBI said it appeared to be friendly fire involving only the agents. An investigation was ongoing.
“If Nick were here he’d say, ‘Guys, I’m taken care of. Just take care of my girls, my wife and my family,’ ” his brother Joel Ivie, also an agent, said during the funeral.
Dozens of agents on horseback lined the street outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meeting house, leading with them Ivie’s riderless horse, nicknamed Mouse for his rounded ears.
“He loved that horse,” his brother said.
Meanwhile, the investigation continued into the shooting that also injured another agent.
The head of the U.S. Border Patrol agents’ union said Ivie apparently opened fire on his two colleagues thinking they were armed smugglers, and was killed when they shot back.
Ivie apparently opened fire first but it remained unclear why, National Border Patrol Council President George McCubbin said.
“I don’t know what it was he saw or heard that triggered this whole event,” McCubbin said. “Unfortunately, it resulted in his death and another agent injured.”
McCubbin and Acting Cochise County Sheriff Rod Rothrock said Ivie knew the two other agents also were heading to the area on foot, and they knew he was responding, but the three apparently didn’t know they were so close.
“It was dark, very, very rugged terrain, and what they could see of each other was further obscured by the fact that there was brush and cacti and stuff like that between them,” Rothrock said. “I have no doubt that these agents were in as heightened a state of alert as you can get due to the proximity to the border and the history of trafficking in that area.”
Rothrock said that when the agents spotted each other in the dark, “they apparently took defensive postures, which was probably interpreted as aggressive postures – like readying your weapons, for example.”
Ivie, 30, died at the scene. The other agent was wounded but has since been released from the hospital. The third agent was unharmed.
Ivie’s death marked the first fatal shooting of an agent since a deadly 2010 firefight with Mexican gunmen that killed U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010 and spawned congressional probes of a botched government gun-smuggling investigation.
Associated Press writers Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix and Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Ariz., contributed to this report.