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What We Know So Far About the Mysterious Death of a Border Patrol Agent

The Border Patrol union says he was ambushed by "illegal aliens," and the FBI and other law enforcement agencies still think it might have been an accident.
November 21, 2017, 7:00pm
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Late Saturday night, a group of Border Patrol officers found two fellow agents seriously injured at the bottom of a steep culvert in Culberson County, Texas, not far from the US-Mexico border. One agent died from his injuries Sunday, leading President Trump to call for "justice" for those who "killed" him and rally for a border wall.

The only problem: Investigators still aren't sure if the officers were attacked at all, much less by who.

Agent Rogelio Martinez passed away after suffering traumatic head injuries and broken bones, according to the FBI. His partner—who hasn't been named—suffered similar injuries, and is said to remain in critical condition. The partner, who called in the incident, has struggled to remember what happened on Saturday, the Dallas Morning News reports.

County sheriff Oscar Carrillo told the paper Monday that it was still unclear exactly how they were hurt, and suggested the two might have been involved in an accident—a possibility the FBI hasn't ruled out. A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection told the Associated Press Martinez and his partner "were not fired upon."

"The evidence is not obvious as to what happened out there," Carillo told the Morning News__."The injuries to [Martinez], after talking to his doctors, were consistent with a fall. Very consistent with a fall. Why is the other guy hurt? That's the unknown. What happened to him?"

For his part, Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council union, told the Los Angeles Times Martinez appeared to have been attacked by "illegal aliens," and that both he and his partner were bludgeoned in the head with rocks.

"What we know is that Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez appears to have been ambushed by a group of illegal aliens whom he was tracking," Judd said. "Our agents’ reports from the ground say that he was struck in the head multiple times with a rock or rocks."

The results of Martinez's autopsy were still pending Tuesday. According to the Associated Press, some federal investigators suspected Martinez may have taken a fatal fall.

Though the circumstances surrounding the incident remained hazy, Republican lawmakers were quick to frame it as a killing. Texas senator Ted Cruz called it "a stark reminder of the ongoing threat" posed by an "unsecure border." Texas Governor Greg Abbott put out a $20,000 reward for info leading to the arrest of those responsible for what he termed a "murder."

But Martinez's family was still waiting for answer. Jose Martinez, the agent's father, told the LA Times he hasn't learned how his son died.

“I want them to investigate well," Martinez said, "to tell me clearly what happened and to find the ones who did it and punish them."

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.