I first heard hints in this direction late last week, but didn’t want to comment until now, when this indeed seem like a case of “friendly fire.”
A preliminary investigation has found friendly fire likely was to blame in a shooting that killed one federal agent and wounded another along the Arizona-Mexico border, the FBI said Friday, shaking up the probe into an incident that reignited the political debate over border security.
“There are strong preliminary indications that the death of United States Border Patrol Agent Nicholas J. Ivie and the injury to a second agent was the result of an accidental shooting incident involving only the agents,” FBI Special Agent in Charge James L. Turgal Jr. said in a statement.
Turgal didn’t elaborate on the agency’s conclusions but said the FBI is using “all necessary investigative, forensic and analytical resources” as it investigates the Tuesday shooting about five miles north of the border near Bisbee.
In all likelihood, when they say there are “strong preliminary indications” that this was a fratricide, they are looking at a combination of physical evidence and geometry of the shots fired.
This would include the spent cartridge casings and any recovered bullets or bullet fragments.
Recovered cartridge casings confirm the number of rounds fired and rough location of where they were fired from (to within a few yards) when shooters use semi-automatic weapons. Both agents that were shot and terrain features around the scene of the shooting could contain bullet fragments or mostly-intact bullets which could confirm both the direction of shots fired and potentially confirm hits. Even bullets and fragments too damaged for a match to the rifling can be matched to the metallurgy of the bullets used by the Border Patrol.
Knowing where both men were when they fired, and knowing where they were hit, can help recreate the shooting angles with a fair degree of precision.
Together, the recovered evidence and geometry may give a 90% or higher probability that the agents shot each other even without bullet fragments just based upon the math. If they were able to recover bullet fragments or entire bullets, the evidence supporting a case of accidental fratricide goes up significantly, and depending on what the third responding agent may have seen, could approach 100%.
Of course, there is a possibility that the wounded and killed agents were shot by the third agent, but I’ve not yet seen any evidence suggesting that at this time.
Regardless of the specifics, it is a tragedy, and my heart goes out to the family members hurt so deeply. May God give them comfort and strength.
Sadly, the fact remains that agents wouldn’t be approaching a scene so wired for conflict if this and previous American governments gave a damn about border integrity and create physical barriers that would actually stop the nearly unrestricted flow of criminal activity between or nations.