Border agent's family not focusing on how he died

Oct 7 2012 - 1:49pm

PHOENIX -- A spokesman for the family of Nicholas J. Ivie says how the U.S. Border Patrol agent died changes little.

"Quite honestly, the circumstances that surround exactly what happened will do nothing to bring Nick back," said Kevin Goates, Sierra Vista stake president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Those are just details. The fact is, he is gone, and that is what the family is focusing on and their time together and their time for healing."

Ivie, 30, is survived by his wife, Christy, and two young daughters, plus his parents and siblings.

A service to honor Ivie, who grew up in Provo, has been scheduled for 11 a.m. MDT Thursday at Utah Valley University in Orem.

A funeral is set for
10 a.m. MST Monday at the LDS meetinghouse at 2100 Yaqui St. in Sierra Vista, Ariz.

Ivie's family will see visitors this evening at Hatfield Funeral Home, also in Sierra Vista.

Officials said Saturday that they believe that Border Patrol agents involved in a likely "friendly fire" shooting that killed Ivie responded from different directions in a dark, rugged canyon and may have misinterpreted their colleagues' actions on approach.

Three agents fired unknowingly at each other after they separately responded to a tripped sensor in a rugged canyon in southeastern Arizona, Cochise County Acting Sheriff Rod Rothrock said Saturday.

FBI officials said a preliminary investigation showed that Border Agent Nicholas J. Ivie died in a "friendly fire" shooting that only involved the agents.

Another agent was shot in the buttocks and ankle and is recovering at home after undergoing surgery. A third agent was not injured.

Authorities have not released their names.

Ivie, a six-year agent, was shot while he and his two colleagues on horseback patrolled an area a few miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, between Naco and Bisbee. The area is considered a corridor for drug and human smuggling near the Mule Mountains.

The three agents had communicated with each other and knew they were all in the area. Ivie was about 20 yards away from the other two agents and "interpreted defensive postures from the other as aggressive postures," Rothrock said.

George McCubbin, union president of the National Border Patrol Council, elaborated, saying the agents converged from opposite directions, descending down hills into a relatively level area thick with brush.

"They were dropping down into this saddle area, coming in from two different sides," he said.

"This happened between 1 and 2 in the morning, and then with all the brush, they may have never even seen each other. Maybe they tried to reach each other but couldn't. They have lots of dead spots in the desert."

Investigators scoured the desert area on horseback and all-terrain vehicles and with helicopters in the days after the shooting.

Gun-trace documents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show that a high-powered rifle and a handgun were found near the shooting scene, though it was not clear whether they were connected to the incident.

A .223 Bushmaster rifle, seized on Wednesday, was "recovered in Mexico in the vicinity where Border Patrol agent was murdered," according to one of the documents.

It says the weapon was purchased in the U.S., but does not specify where.

A .38-caliber Titan Tiger revolver was recovered separately Tuesday in Mexico, also near the Naco area, a second document states. That trace record included this alert: "Urgent High Profile Border Agent Shot."

The record says the weapon was originally purchased in February 2009 from the Frontier Gun Shop in Tucson.

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