World Bulletin/News Desk
Friendly fire probably killed a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona near the Mexican border this week, the FBI said on Friday, citing "strong preliminary indications" from the ongoing investigation.
Before daybreak on Tuesday, Nicholas Ivie was one of three agents responding on foot to a tripped ground sensor, in a well-known smuggling corridor, when gunfire erupted.
They were a few miles north of the border, near the tiny border town of Naco. A second agent was wounded in the incident, but has since been released from the hospital, and the third agent was unharmed.
Ivie was the fourth Border Patrol agent to die in violent circumstances in less than two years in Arizona. His death heightened concern about border security in a state at the forefront of the national immigration debate.
"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 said in a statement.
Commander Jeffrey Self of the Customs and Border Protection's joint field command in Arizona told reporters he met with the Ivie family on Friday about the possibility the shooting was a "tragic accident, the result of friendly fire."
U.S. authorities had previously released scant details about the circumstances of the shootings.
The agents were tracking footprints before the incident, said Carol Capas, spokeswoman for the Cochise County Sheriff's Office, which has jurisdiction over the area and is investigating the shootings along with the FBI.
Mexican officials said two men were arrested this week in a military operation near the city of Agua Prieta, a few miles across the border from the shooting scene.
U.S. authorities have declined to comment on those arrests. Capas said her office had not been officially notified of any arrests.
Ivie, 30, had been an agent for over six years, Self said.
Matthew Benson, a spokesman for Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer, on Friday defended her comments made soon after the shooting, in which she criticized the federal government for inaction on securing the porous border with Mexico.
"The governor does not make statements lightly on something like this," Benson said. "Her initial remarks were based upon the best information available at the time from law enforcement. Whether this was a friendly fire incident or not, that does not change the tragedy that has occurred here."
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a former Arizona governor, held talks with law enforcement officials on Friday at the Border Patrol station where Ivie worked.
Kevin Goates, the Ivie family spokesman, declined to comment on the FBI announcement of the preliminary findings in the case.
He said Napolitano had met with Ivie's widow, Christy, and other family members.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speaks with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov
Russian lawmakers' move came only a day after the Turkish air force shot down a Russian fighter jet for violating its airspace
EU budget for 2016 has more than doubled funding for migration-related measures within 28-member bloc
A bomb killing 12 exploded in the capital of Tunisia on Tuesday near a police car belonging to the Tunisian presidency
Ukraine has banned all Russian airlines from transiting its airspace
Several countries and bodies condemned Tuesday’s deadly attack in Tunis
Pope Francis landed in Kenya's capital Nairobi on the first leg of a landmark trip to Africa
According to eyewitnesses, the embassy premises were hurled with stones, eggs and can of paint
Russian FM reassured that Russia does not plan to 'go to war' with Turkey
Total of 147 heads of state and government will attend the climate summit in Paris next week
Russia has also decided to send a cruiser equipped with air defense system to the shore zone of Latakia, Russian Armed Forces general says
Washington and Paris have both stepped up their fight against ISIL in Syria, with calling for more international cooperation against the extremists
'Europe must say that it can no longer accommodate so many refugees, it is not possible,' PM Valls says
A deadly blast comes days after 21 people died in attack in Malian capital
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has issued a travel warning advising Russians not to visit Turkey in wake of the downing of the Russian jet yesterday.