MENU
component-ddb-728x90-v1-01-desktop

Days later, cause of Border Patrol agent's death still unclear

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at a processing facility in Brownsville on June 18, 2014. (Photo by Eric Gay via the Texas Tribune)

by Julián Aguilar | The Texas Tribune

More than two days after a United States Border Patrol agent was killed and another seriously wounded while on patrol in West Texas, exactly what happened to the agents is still unclear.

Agent Rogelio Martinez, 36, died Sunday after sustaining severe head and bodily injuries. His partner, who hasn’t been named, is recovering from his injuries and is in intensive care, according to federal authorities.

In a statement sent late Monday, the FBI said the men were transported to a hospital after being found injured in a culvert adjacent to I-10 at about 11:20 p.m. Saturday. The incident happened about 12 miles east of Van Horn, which is about 120 miles east of El Paso. The FBI said that agency took over the case Sunday because it is the bureau charged with investigating potential assaults on federal officers.

The incident set off a swarm of speculation Sunday about what might have happened to the agents, with some lawmakers immediately calling for more resources on the border. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced an award of $20,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in what he described as an attack on the agents. And President Donald Trump tweeted that those responsible for Martinez’s death would be held accountable and renewed his call for a border wall on the southern border.

“We will seek out and bring to justice those responsible. We will, and must, build the Wall!" he tweeted.

But the FBI stopped short of confirming more details, despite several news reports that cited Border Patrol union officials saying the men were ambushed. The San Antonio Express News reported Sunday that the agents were not fired upon, but that the surviving agent has no recollection of what happened.

On Monday, uncertainty over what happened to the agents continued to grow. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told a local radio station he heard “at least preliminarily" that the incident was an "ambush by drug traffickers." But he also cautioned that details needed to be confirmed. Late Monday, the Associated Press reported that Martinez’s death is also being investigated as the result of a possible accident. The AP stated the area the men were patrolling is commonly used to transport drugs.

Also on Monday, Customs and Border Protection announced, and then cancelled, a press briefing about the matter in Van Horn. A CBP spokesperson in El Paso said a briefing could happen in El Paso Tuesday with the FBI.

The FBI is still asking people with information about what happened to call its 24-hour hotline.

“The FBI is aggressively investigating all leads coming in from the public and through investigative activities,” the agency said in a news release.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Trending