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'Dedicated' Border Patrol agent killed in Sells cycle crash

The cause of the crash remains under investigation

The cause of the motorcycle crash that killed a veteran Border Patrol agent remains under investigation, said Tucson Sector Chief Paul Beeson during a news conference Friday. 

Border Patrol Agent Manuel Alvarez, 37, was killed around 10 a.m. on Thursday while on patrol along a dirt road south of Sells, Arizona. Alvarez's partner was on his own motorcycle and suffered minor injuries, Beeson said. That agent is on leave, Beeson said. 

The crash occurred near Vamori, a Tohono O'odham village about eight miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Police from the Tohono O'odham Nation are investigating the incident, Beeson said, declining to give additional details on the incident that killed Alvarez. 

"They were working in remote terrain that it better suited for a motorcycle," said Beeson. 

"I think this is a loss that is gonna be felt by all of us for a very long time. He was a member of our team, a member of our family, out there doing the work that Border Patrol agents love to do," Beeson said.

Alvarez was assigned to the Casa Grande Station, and had worked as a Border Patrol agent for 13 years. 

He is survived by his wife and four children, Beeson said.

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Art Del Cueto, the president of Local 2455, the union that represents Border Patrol agents in the Tucson Sector has known Alvarez since 2003 when they attended the federal law enforcement academy together in Glynco, Georgia. 

Their class was unusual Del Cueto said, because they were the only Border Patrol agents at the facility that year, and they became a tight-knit group as they endured an intense, accelerated training program. 

"We were the only class, so we counseled each other and stuck together." Del Cueto. Del Cueto said that he and the other members of the class worked and studied intensely and Sunday was their only rest day. 

"We called it six Mondays and a Sunday, it was just so intense," he said. 

After graduation, around half of the class were transferred to the Ajo Station, while the rest went to the Casa Grade station where Alvarez worked until his death Thursday. 

Alvarez worked as a patrol agent, but then transferred to work on "bike" patrol, driving motorcycles deep into the west desert to look for illegal traffic. 

"Not everybody signs up to ride the motorcycles. That's a tough, dirty job, but he was doing it," Beeson said.

"He was very dedicated, he went out there, getting after it," Beeson said. 

Alvarez was "a great friend, a great agent and a fantastic person," Del Cueto said. 

Del Cueto described Alvarez as a "humble, smiley" guy, who was also driven to be a "fantastic agent." 

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When a classmate heard that Alvarez had died, he drove out to the site of the accident and, along with a growing convoy of Border Patrol agents, made sure to follow the vehicle carrying Alvarez's body to the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office. 

Del Cueto said that Alvarez's death was very hard, but he was working to make sure that other classmates could attend services.

"We feel the pain of his loss because we were his friends, but the agency has suffered a tremendous loss too," Del Cueto said. "It's just a horrible thing." 

In a statement Thursday, CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said that he and Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan were "deeply saddened to inform" the community that Alvarez had died. 

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Agent Alvarez," Kerlikowske said.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Friday morning that flags at state office buildings would be flown at half-staff until sunset, and again on the day of Alvarez's funeral.

The last time a Tucson Sector Border Patrol agent was killed in the line of duty was in May 2014, when Agent Alexander I. Giannini died from injuries received in a rollover accident on Interstate 10 east of Tucson.  

More recently, Border Patrol Agent Jose D. Barraza died on April 18, in two-vehicle accident near Sierra Blanca, Texas.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Tucson Sector Chief Paul Beeson said that the investigation into the crash that killed a veteran Border Patrol agent is ongoing. Agent Manuel Alvarez, 37, was killed Thursday in a motorcycle crash while on patrol about eight miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. His partner, who was on his own motorcycle received minor injuries and is on leave, Beeson said.