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UPDATE: FBI: Border Agent’s Death A ‘Potential Assault ‘

The Associated Press said that investigators believed Martinez may have fallen down the 14-foot  culvert, and his partner, who radioed for help, had no memory of what happened, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation

A Border Patrol spokesman had confirmed on November 20th, 2017 that  Martinez died at a hospital and that his partner, whose name hasn’t been released, was seriously injured.

An FBI official said Tuesday that the bureau is investigating the death of a border patrol agent and severe injuries to another as “potential assault,” but he wouldn’t rule out that they could have been hurt in some other way.

Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. said during a news conference in El Paso that investigators are still trying to “gather the facts,” but they are currently treating it as an assault on a federal officer.

The couched language comes more than two days after U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agent Rogelio Martinez succumbed to traumatic head injuries and broken bones suffered while on duty, and after several politicians portrayed his death as the result of an attack.

Martinez died Sunday and his partner, whose name has not been released, was seriously injured. They were found late Saturday in a culvert near Van Horn, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the border with Mexico and 110 miles (175 kilometers) southeast of El Paso.

At Tuesday’s news conference, Buie and U.S. Border Patrol Acting Chief Victor Velazquez did not say why they believed the agents may have been attacked.

Authorities haven’t said whether they have any suspects. The state of Texas is offering a $20,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest or conviction, and the FBI on Tuesday tacked on an additional $25,000.

A U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation told the Associated Press Martinez may have fallen into the culvert. The official said Martinez’s partner, who radioed for help, was still recovering in the hospital and has no memory of what happened. The official, who was briefed on the investigation spoke on condition of anonymity and is not authorized to speak publicly, said it happened after dark in an area that’s known for drug activity and where agents often look for drugs in culverts.

Rush Carter, a border patrol supervisor for the region that includes the area where the agents were injured, said Monday night that reports it was an attack were “speculation.” But several elected officials, including President Donald Trump, referred to it as such.

When asked about the president’s remarks Tuesday, Buie said he had not briefed Trump on the investigation.

An FBI spokeswoman told the San Antonio Express-News on Sunday that the agents were “not fired upon,” but she didn’t elaborate.

Martinez’s mother, Elvia Martinez, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she and her husband are also awaiting more information. She said she didn’t yet know any details about the circumstances surrounding their son’s death.

“He was a very accomplished person and loved his work,” she said tearfully and in Spanish.

Rogelio Martinez, father to an 11-year-old, joined the Border Patrol in 2013.

Chris Cabrera, a spokesman for a border patrol agents union, the National Border Patrol Council, told The Associated Press that the two agents appeared to have been struck in the head with a rock or rocks. Cabrera said agents who responded to the scene described it as “grisly” and said Martinez and his partner had “extensive injuries.”

Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to insist that Martinez’s death underscores the need for a wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. The president offered his condolences to Martinez’s family. He also said Martinez’s partner was “brutally beaten and badly, badly hurt” but that it “looks like he’ll make it.”

Authorities haven’t said whether they think drug smugglers or people who were in the country illegally were involved.

Martinez is the second agent to have died this year.

The Border Patrol website lists 38 agents, not including Martinez, who have died since late 2003. Some were attacked while working along the border and others were killed in traffic accidents.

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The FBI confirmed on Tuesday that Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez died because of head injuries suffered in the early morning hours of Sunday, November 19, 2017.

The FBI was only hinting that the two officers were found in a culvert area adjacent to Interstate 10, about 12 miles east of the city of Van Horn, in far West Texas. The second injured Border Patrol agent is currently in a local El Paso hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) in stable condition.

The father of agent Martinez had said his son suffered serious injuries that left is head, “destroyed,” according to the El Paso Times.

The Associated Press said that investigators believed Martinez may have fallen down the 14-foot  culvert, and his partner, who radioed for help, had no memory of what happened, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation.

FBI spokeswoman Jeanette Harper said in a statement Monday that both agents were found late Saturday night in a culvert near Van Horn and that both had traumatic head injuries. Harper said Rogelio Martinez died early Sunday. The FBI is leading the investigation and results of his autopsy are pending.

Another U.S. official, who was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, according to AP, said Monday that Martinez was found at the bottom of the culvert and that investigators believe he may have fallen. The official said it happened after dark in an area that’s known for drug activity and where agents often look for drugs in culverts.

Authorities hadn’t offered an official explanation of what happened to Martinez and his partner, and a border patrol supervisor said reports that the agents were attacked are “speculation.”

An FBI press release stated:

“The FBI, as the lead agency for investigating any potential assault on a federal officer, became the lead on this investigation on November 19, 2017.”

The LA Timesand Washington Post quoted Brandon Judd, a Border Patrol agent and president of the San Diego-based National Border Patrol Council union that represents 16,000 agents, stating: “Our agents’ reports from the ground say that agent Rogelio was struck in the head multiple times with a rock or rocks.”

Judd added: “The other agent arrived on scene a short time later and was also ambushed and struck in the head with what is believed to have been a rock or rocks.”

Here is the complete statement the FBI released on November 20th, 2017:

First and foremost, the thoughts and prayers of all the federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies involved are with the family, friends and U.S. Border Patrol work force during this tragic time. 

On November 18, 2017, at approximately 11:20 p.m. CST, U.S. Border Patrol Agents from the Van Horn Station in the Big Bend Sector, located two injured Border Patrol agents in a culvert area adjacent to Interstate 10, about 12 miles east of Van Horn.   They provided the injured Agents with immediate medical care and transported them to a local Van Horn hospital.  

Both agents sustained traumatic head injuries, along with other miscellaneous physical injuries such as broken bones.  At a local hospital in Van Horn, it was determined both of the agents’ injuries were severe and required advanced medical care.  The injured agents were airlifted separately to a local hospital in El Paso, Texas. 

Sadly, Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez succumbed to his injuries and died in the early morning hours of Sunday, November 19, 2017.  The results of an autopsy are pending.  The second injured Border Patrol Agent is currently in a local El Paso hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) in stable condition.

The FBI, as the lead agency for investigating any potential assault on a federal officer, became the lead on this investigation yesterday, November 19, 2017.  Whenever the FBI suspects a member of the federal law enforcement community has been the victim of a violent assault, the FBI is responsible for investigating the matter.  The FBI is working closely with U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (including CBP Air and Marine), Texas Department of Public Safety, and United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.  Additionally, the FBI has received assistance from the HSI, DEA, CBP Office of Professional Responsibility, Department of Homeland Security’s-Office of Inspector General, El Paso Police Department, and Culberson County Sheriff’s Department.

The FBI is asking anyone with information about this tragic incident to contact the FBI 24 hours a day at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or online at tips.fbi.gov.  The FBI is aggressively investigating all leads coming in from the public and through investigative activities.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott offered $20,000 for information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of what he’s calling, “murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent and the serious injury of another.” 

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