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U.S. Customs and Border Protection, File, Associated Press
FILE - This undated photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows slain Border Patrol agent Nicolas Ivie. The fatal shooting of Ivie and the wounding another U.S. Border Patrol agent near the Arizona-Mexico border may have been a case of friendly fire, a union chief for border agents and law enforcement officials said Friday, Oct. 5, 2012.

PHOENIX — The head of the Border Patrol agents union says the agent killed last week in a shooting in southern Arizona apparently opened fire on two fellow agents thinking they were armed smugglers and was killed when they returned fire.

National Border Patrol Council president George McCubbin said Sunday that the two sets of agents approached an area where a sensor had been activated. He says they arrived from different directions early Tuesday when Agent Nicholas Ivie opened fire.

Acting Cochise County Sheriff Rod Rothrock confirmed the scenario but would not say if Ivie was the first to shoot.

The shooting happened a few miles north of the border with Mexico, in a well-known smuggling area.

The FBI announced Friday that the shooting appeared to be a case of friendly fire.