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Published: Friday, 10/5/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Union boss: There's a real possibility friendly fire could have played part in border shooting

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Family members of Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie participate on Thursday in a candlelight ceremony in Naco, Ariz. Family members of Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie participate on Thursday in a candlelight ceremony in Naco, Ariz.
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PHOENIX — The shooting of two U.S. Border Patrol agents near the Arizona-Mexico border may have been a case of friendly fire, a union chief for border agents and law enforcement officials said Friday.

The development could shake up the investigation into the death of one of the agents that re-ignited the political debate over security on the border.

George McCubbin, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing about 17,000 border agents, said Friday that he has learned new details that make him believe friendly fire could have played a part in the shooting.

"The only thing I can say is that the possibility of friendly fire is a higher likely scenario," McCubbin said, declining to elaborate on the new details.

Two law enforcement officials also told The Associated Press that the FBI is investigating the possibility that the fatal shooting of 30-year-old Agent Nicholas Ivie and the wounding of another agent early Tuesday morning five miles from the border was a case of friendly fire.

The probe is examining whether the two agents exchanged gunfire Tuesday in the mistaken belief that each was being fired on by a hostile gunman.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is under investigation.

FBI officials in Washington and Phoenix declined to comment.

The shooting occurred in a rugged hilly area about five miles north of the border near Bisbee, Ariz., as the agents responded to an alarm that was triggered on one of the sensors that the government has installed along the border. The wounded agent has been released from the hospital, while the third agent was uninjured.

Ivie's death marked the first fatal shooting of an agent since a deadly 2010 firefight with Mexican bandits that killed U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010 and spawned congressional probes of a botched government gun-smuggling investigation.

Terry's shooting was later linked to that "Fast and Furious" operation, which allowed people suspected of illegally buying guns for others to walk away from gun shops with weapons, rather than be arrested.

Authorities intended to track the guns into Mexico. Two rifles found at the scene of Terry's shooting were bought by a member of the gun-smuggling ring being investigated. Critics of the operation say any shooting along the border now will raise the specter that those illegal weapons are still being used.

Twenty-six Border Patrol agents have died in the line of duty since 2002.

 

 

xxxThe FBI is investigating the possibility that the fatal shooting of a U.S. border patrol agent and the wounding of another was a case of friendly fire, two law enforcement officials said Friday.

The probe is looking into whether the two agents exchanged gunfire Tuesday in the mistaken belief that each was being fired on by a hostile gunman. The shootings occurred near Bisbee, Ariz.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is under investigation.

At FBI headquarters, spokesman Chris Allen declined to comment.

The shootings occurred in a rugged hilly area about five miles north of the border near Bisbee, as Nicholas Ivie and two other agents responded to an alarm that was triggered on one of the sensors that the government has installed along the border. Ivie was fatally shot. The wounded agent was shot in the ankle and buttocks and released from the hospital after undergoing surgery. The third agent wasn't injured.

Ivie's death marked the first fatal shooting of an agent since a deadly firefight with Mexican bandits that killed U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010 and spawned congressional probes of a botched government gun-smuggling investigation called Operation Fast and Furious.

On Tuesday after the latest shooting, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said "there's no way to know at this point how the agent was killed, but because of Operation Fast and Furious, we'll wonder for years if the guns used in any killing along the border were part of an ill-advised gun-walking strategy sanctioned by the federal government." Early investigative work by Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, brought Fast and Furious to light in early 2011.

Twenty-six Border Patrol agents have died in the line of duty since 2002.



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