Border Patrol Agent Shot, Killed in Arizona

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One United States Border Patrol agent was killed and another was injured in a shootout on Arizona’s border with Mexico, causing some to point the finger at the failed “Fast and Furious” operation.

According to federal authorities, Border Patrol agent Nicholas Ivie was shot and killed in the early morning of October 2, in a confrontation near Naco, Arizona.  US Border Patrol spokesman Rob Daniels told reporters that Ivie and two other agents had been dispatched to the scene in response to an alarm triggered by an electronic sensor on the border. It’s not clear why the alarm was triggered.

Once there, Ivie and another officer were shot by unidentified gunmen. The other agent is reportedly in stable condition.

In an unfortunate coincidence, the New York Times reports that Ivie had been stationed at a border patrol post that had recently been named after Brian Terry, the border patrol agent whose 2010 murder was linked to the controversial program known as “Operation Fast and Furious.”

Fast and Furious was a federal operation in which Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) investigators based in Arizona tracked weapons purchased in the US side back into Mexico in an attempt to discern the main buyers in that country. The ATF was criticized for allowing the guns “to walk.” In addition to Terry’s death, many of these weapons appeared in Mexican crime scenes. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Fatal attacks like the one that killed Ivie are uncommon. While official statistics suggest that violent clashes with US border agents are on the rise, the vast majority of these incidents involve unarmed individuals throwing rocks, sticks and bottles at officials. 

Still, Arizona has seen a surge in drug trafficking recently, with smugglers using the Arizona border’s status as a popular corridor for migrant crossings as cover for their operations. Arizona has also been identified as a hub for cartels’ money laundering efforts. In May, one Homeland Security official told congressional investigators that “approximately 23 percent of the narcotics and approximately 53 percent of the currency and monetary instruments” linked to the drug trade and seized by border officials came from Arizona in fiscal year 2011.

While the suspects behind the shooting have not been identified, some are already using this for political leverage. In a statement, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, who led the recent congressional investigation into “Fast and Furious,” noted: “There’s no way to know at this point how the agent was killed, but because of Operation Fast and Furious, we’ll wonder for years if the guns used in any killing along the border were part of an ill-advised gun-walking strategy sanctioned by the federal government.”

What Grassley fails to note, however, is that the vast majority of the weapons that cross the border are not part of any law enforcement strategy or case. They are purchased, legally, in the thousands of US gun stores, trade shows and other sanctioned venues. They then cross the border, in bunches of five or six, in the trunks of cars or in hidden compartments through these same border control stations. 

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