PHOENIX -- The investigation into the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in southern Arizona is far from over, but 3TV is getting some insight from someone who's very familiar with the agency and the area in which the shooting happened.
Nicholas Ivie was shot and killed near the Arizona border with Mexico in what the F.B.I. calls a possible "friendly fire" incident that occurred while responding to an alarm triggered by a ground sensor.
Retired Deputy National Border Patrol Chief Ronald Colburn said that while it might sound unusual, it's not hard for agents to lose track of one another.
“One can drop into a very narrow canyon or wash and lose that communication capability within seconds," said Colburn, who used to patrol the same area as Ivie.
Federal officials believe Ivie likely opened fire on two fellow agents, thinking they were smugglers. They in turn returned fire.
The preliminary investigation shows that they may have spotted each other's shadows, and taken defensive postures that were misinterpreted as aggressive stances by foes.
“It was probably dark, obscured by thick and heavy brush and rocks," said Colburn. “Verbal communications are typically step one, or first and foremost. If somebody is shooting at you, you don’t need to announce yourself, certainly. You’re probably taking cover, or returning fire, and that’s quite often what happens in the bush. They’re not going to announce themselves to you. They’re just going to try to kill you."
Ivie was the only agent killed in this case. Another agent was hurt, but is expected to be okay.
Colburn said he's not sure what could arise from such a serious incident.
“I can’t even pretend to try to predict any disciplinary or adverse action based on an outcome here. If it’s an accident, there are times when accidents are just that; they’re accidents. Nick Ivie will never be forgotten, and his family will not be left alone," Colburn added.
Ivie was laid to rest Thursday. He leaves behind a wife, and two young children. There is no time frame for the investigation into his death to be complete.