Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said on Tuesday that her state is in mourning over the fatal shooting of another U.S. Border Patrol agent and the wounding of another.
“Arizona has lost another Border Patrol agent,” the Republican governor’s statement began. “In the dark hours before daybreak, one agent was killed and another injured while on duty along Arizona’s southern border. It is believed they were responding to an alerted ground sensor in a remote area near Bisbee, a short distance north of the border.”
The agents, who have not been identified, were assigned to the Brian Terry Station in Naco, a center “newly-dedicated and named for a U.S. Border Patrol agent murdered under similar circumstances in Arizona less than two years ago.”
Terry’s death remains under investigation by Congress as part of its inquiry into the botched “Operation Fast and Furious” gun-running operation.
The agents who were shot on Tuesday were on horseback patrol with a third agent, who was not harmed.
“More recently, in May 2011, we lost two more agents – Eduardo Rojas Jr. and Hector Clark – when they were killed in a vehicle accident while pursuing suspected drug smugglers near Gila Bend,” Brewer’s statement continued.
“What happens next has become all-too-familiar in Arizona: Flags will be lowered in honor of the slain agent. Elected officials will vow to find those responsible. Arizonans, and Americans will grieve – and they should.
“But this ought not only be a day of tears,” Brewer added. “There should be anger, too. Righteous anger – at the kind of evil that causes sorrow this deep, and at the federal failure and political stalemate that has left our border unsecured and our Border Patrol in harm’s way.
“Four fallen agents in less than two years is the result.”
Brewer then attacked the Obama White House for an observation it made in 2011 about security at the border.
“It has been 558 days since the Obama administration declared the security of the U.S.-Mexico border ‘better now than it has ever been.’ I’ll remember that statement today.”
Authorities said three agents were on foot about 5 miles (8 km) north of the border when gunfire erupted well before daybreak but provided few additional details on the circumstances of the violence.
“As they were walking up the trail, they reported taking gunfire,” Cochise County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Carol Capas said. “We have unknown suspect or suspects at this point.”
The shooting marks the fourth death of a Border Patrol agent in Arizona in less than two years and was likely to reignite concerns over border security in a state neighboring Mexico that is already at the forefront of the national immigration debate.
Brewer has been a vocal foe of President Barack Obama’s administration on immigration, amd signed a broad immigration crackdown into law in 2010 to try to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into the state where an estimated 360,000 undocumented people live.
Critics of the law, which include a requirement that police check the immigration status of anyone they stop and suspect of being in the country illegally, have said it could lead to racial profiling.
The shooting took place near the border town of Naco, southeast of Tucson, which remains a corridor for marijuana trafficking and human smuggling, despite the construction of a tall, steel fence along the border.
“We need to redouble our efforts to secure the border and ensure the safety of Border Patrol agents,” U.S. Democratic Representative Ron Barber, who represents the southern Arizona district where the shooting occurred, said in a statement.
Sheriff’s deputies were called to the scene at 1:33 a.m. local time and found one agent dead and another with non-life-threatening injuries, Capas said. A third was unharmed. FBI agents were also investigating.
The Border Patrol identified the slain agent as Nicholas Ivie, 30, who was originally from Utah and had worked for the agency since 2008.
The agents had been responding to a sensor, which picks up on movement or vibrations in areas authorities suspect are used by drug traffickers and illegal immigrants. When an alert is triggered, agents have the option to respond.
Capas said the agents who were shot were assigned to the Brian A. Terry Border Patrol Station, named after an agent whose 2010 death in the line of duty in Arizona borderlands was linked to a botched U.S. operation to track guns smuggled to Mexico.
In that case, two guns tracked by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in the “Fast and Furious” sting operation, which let weapons slip into Mexico, were retrieved from the spot where Terry died in a shoot-out with bandits. It was unclear if the weapons were used in his murder.
Separately, two Border Patrol agents were killed last year in a accident during a car chase with smugglers near Gila Bend, near Phoenix.