Border Patrol Agent Killed, Another Seriously Wounded in Big Bend Incident

Tourists walk through Santa Elena Canyon, wading through the water of the Rio Grande between Mexico and the U.S., as they vacation at Big Bend National Park in Texas on March 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

A Border Patrol agent died today from an incident in the Texas Big Bend region, while scant details were provided by authorities about exactly what happened and when.

Customs and Border Protection announced in a statement that Agent Rogelio Martinez, 36, of El Paso and his partner were on patrol in separate vehicles and “responding to activity” near Interstate 10 in the Van Horn Station area, which covers 15 miles of the southern border in the eastern tip of the state.

“Agent Martinez’s partner reported that they were both injured and in need of assistance. Responding agents provided immediate medical care, and transported both agents to a local hospital,” CBP said. “Big Bend Sector was later told that Agent Martinez expired from his injuries. His partner remains in the local hospital in serious condition.”

The area was being searched “for potential suspects or witnesses” and the Culberson County Sheriff’s Department, FBI, Office of Inspector General, and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility were investigating.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said Martinez “died as a result of serious injuries suffered while on patrol” but did not elaborate.

“We are fully supporting the ongoing investigation to determine the cause of this tragic event,” Duke said. “On behalf of the quarter of a million frontline officers and agents of DHS, my thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Agent Martinez and to the agent who is in serious condition.”

Martinez had been a Border Patrol agent for four years and leaves his fiancee and a son. His partner’s name was not released.

The Border Patrol Foundation posted a memo from Acting CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan adding the detail that Martinez was found “unconscious, with multiple injuries to his head and body.” The wounded agent who called for help also suffered head injuries and was conscious.

Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) office referred to the incident as an “attack” in their press release, though Cruz did not specifically say so in his statement.

“This is a stark reminder of the ongoing threat that an unsecure border poses to the safety of our communities and those charged with defending them,” Cruz said. “We are grateful for the courage and sacrifice of our border agents who have dedicated their lives to keeping us safe.”

President Trump later tweeted, “Border Patrol Officer killed at Southern Border, another badly hurt. We will seek out and bring to justice those responsible. We will, and must, build the Wall!”

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), whose district includes Van Horn, said on his Facebook page, “My thoughts are with the loved ones of Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez, who was fatally injured in Van Horn. Praying for a full recovery for his partner, who is currently in serious condition. The men and women of our Border Patrol have an incredibly dangerous and demanding job and they are our most important resource to securing our border.”

The Big Bend area, with the Rio Grande cutting through mountains, accounted for about 1 percent of southern border apprehensions between October 2016 and May 2017.