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FBI: BP Agent Ivie likely killed by friendly fire

Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie was likely killed early Tuesday morning by friendly fire, the FBI announced late Friday afternoon.

"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 Turgal said.

Turgal declined to comment further.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano met with members of the Ivie family Friday in Sierra Vista.

Jeffrey Self, head of Customs and Border Protection's Joint Field Command, also met with the Ivie family.

At a Tucson news conference late Friday afternoon, Self declined to take reporter's questions, but confirmed that he told Ivie's wife that investigators "are looking in to the possibility" that the border agent's death "was a tragic accident."

Ivie "he died in the line of duty and will be honored as such for his final act of service," Self said he told the slain agent's family.

Ivie "will be remembered by all of us who served alongside him for his character, kindness and loyalty," Self said.

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"The fact is, the work of the Border Patrol is dangerous," Self said. "All of us wearing the uniform know this."

"I ask you to respect the privacy of the Ivie family and the agents involved as we struggle to understand this tragedy," he said.

The shooting was jointly investigated by the FBI and the Cochise County Sheriff's Office. Border Patrol agents Friday referred reporters to the FBI for details on the investigation. That agency would not release further information.

Ivie was shot around 1:50 a.m. Tuesday after he and two other agents responded to a sensor hit near mile marker 352 on State Route 80 just east of Bisbee, the Border Patrol confirmed. He died at the scene.

Another of the agents was shot, suffering non-life-threatening injuries. He was airlifted and treated at University of Arizona Medical Center where he underwent surgery and was released.

The third agent was not hit by gunfire in the incident.

Neither of the other two agents have been identified.

U.S. officials have not confirmed reports Tuesday and Wednesday that suspects with possible connections to the shooting were detained in Mexico. Tuesday morning, Mexican police reportedly arrested two men with a bundle of marijuana and a handgun just south of the border from the location of the incident. Wednesday, Mexican officials farther south said they had detained two possible suspects. It's unknown if there are two sets of suspects, and if any of the men had any connection with the incident.

The motion and acoustic sensors used by the Border Patrol can be triggered by animals. Officials have not said whether there was any evidence of anyone other than the three BP agents being at the scene at the time of the shooting incident.

The agents who were shot worked out of the Naco BP station, which was recently renamed in honor of Brian Terry, a Border Patrol agent who was killed in a 2010 shootout with bandits just north of Nogales. Weapons found at the scene of Terry's death were linked to the controversial Fast and Furious gun-smuggling probe.

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At a Tuesday news conference, Turgal refused to release specifics on the case; he declined to comment on reports, later confirmed by Radio Sonora, that two suspects in the shooting had been detained in Mexico.

Ivie, a native of Provo, Utah who was active in the Mormon Church and joined the Border Patrol in 2008. His older brother Joel was already a Border Patrol agent. He is survived by a wife, Christy, and two daughters, one and four years old.

A service will be held 10 a.m. Monday at an LDS Church in Sierra Vista.

Family spokesperson Kevin Goates said that the event is intended for the family and that no cameras or recording devices will be allowed, but that "nobody will be turned away" and arrangements are being made for overflow in case attendance exceeds the building's capacity.

The service will be shown via closed circuit TV at four other LDS churches in Sierra Vista, Bisbee and Douglas, Goates said.

In addition to Monday's services in Sierra Vista, the family is planning services in Utah later in the week.

Goates also announced Thursday that a fund has been established to support the family. Contributions can be made through the National Bank of Arizona or through Utah's Zion National Bank by mentioning the Nicholas Ivie Memorial Fund.

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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FBI statement

Statement of FBI Special Agent in Charge James L. Turgal, Jr. regarding the status of the investigation into the October 2, 2012 shooting of two U.S. Border Patrol agents near Naco, AZ

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.  The FBI is utilizing all necessary investigative, forensic, and analytical resources in the course of this investigation. We thank the United States Customs and Border Protection, United States Border Patrol, and the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, for the challenging work they do every day and for their ongoing cooperation in this difficult matter. At the appropriate time further information will be provided, but while the investigation continues it would be inappropriate to comment any further at this time.

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.

Border Patrol statement

A statement by BP Commander Jeffrey Self, released Friday afternoon:

Earlier today, I met with the family of Agent Nicholas J. Ivie to update them about the status of the investigation.

As you know, investigators have made progress in the investigation into Agent Ivie's death and are looking into the possibility that it was a tragic accident, the result of "friendly fire."

I explained to Agent Ivie's family that, if the investigation ultimately reaches that conclusion, 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∙ That he will be remembered by all of us who served alongside him for his character, kindness and loyalty.

The fact is – the work of the Border Patrol is dangerous. All of us who wear the uniform know this and yet this special breed of men and women willingly put themselves in harm's way to serve their country and protect their communities against those who wish us harm.

We have much to learn and conclude from this incident and I ask for the public's patience and understanding during this difficult time.

I ask you to respect the privacy of Agent Ivie's family and the agents involved as we struggle to understand this tragic incident. I want to thank the investigators for their diligence and ongoing commitment to determine the facts and come to the right conclusions.

Today, we know that in the uncertainty of darkness, the conditions were set; and the hand of God brought Nick home.

Barber statement

A statement released by U.S. Rep. Ron Barber on Friday afternoon:

Today’s development that Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie may have been the victim of an accidental shooting in no way diminishes the heroism and bravery exhibited by him and his fellow agents as they patrolled a dangerous drug smuggling corridor in the dark of night last Tuesday.

The men and women of the Border Patrol deserve our respect and our gratitude for putting their lives on the line each day. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and with the family and friends of Agent Ivie.