Photo: Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie Laid to Rest
Hundreds of people gathered Monday at a Mormon church in Arizona for the funeral of Border Patrol agent Nicholas Ivie, who died last week in what appears to be an incident of friendly fire.
Dozens of Border Patrol agents, several of them on horseback, stood guard around the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Sierra Vista.
Ivie died in an exchange of gunfire in the wee hours of last Tuesday in a mountainous area some 10 kilometers (6.5 miles) east of Bisbee, Arizona, and several kilometers north of the border with Mexico, an area well-known for being a migrant-smuggling corridor.
Last Friday, the FBI said that there were firm indications that Border Patrol agents exchanged shots among themselves in an apparent case of mistaken identity.
Ivie, 30, and two other agents arrived separately in the area in response to signals from an electronic sensor.
The acting Cochise County sheriff, Rod Rothrock, said that Ivie and the other agents arrived in the area in separate vehicles and then continued on foot to the site of the shootout.
George McCubbin, who heads the agents’ union, the National Border Patrol Council, told the The Arizona Republic that Ivie entered a depression in the ground from the north while the other two agents, a man and a woman, entered from the south.
Investigators believe that Ivie thought that he had run across an armed smuggler and opened fire, wounding the male agent, said McCubbin. The agents were less than 20 meters (65 feet) apart when the gunfire erupted.
The wounded agent returned fire, killing Ivie, McCubbin said.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano last week visited the Arizona border and met with Ivie’s family and with the FBI agents carrying out the investigation. She also toured the area where the incident occurred aboard a helicopter.
This is the first death of a Border Patrol agent along the Arizona-Mexico boundary since Brian Terry died in December 2010 in a confrontation with criminals.