This tragedy reminds us of the risks our men and women confront, the dangers they willingly undertake, while protecting our nation's borders. —Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
BISBEE, Ariz. — Those investigating the shooting death of Border Patrol agent Nicholas Ivie said Friday there are "strong preliminary indications" the former Provo resident died as a result of friendly fire.
"While it is important to emphasize that the FBI's investigation is actively continuing, 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," said James L. Turgal Jr., FBI special agent in charge.
"The FBI is utilizing all necessary investigative, forensic and analytical resources in the course of this investigation," Turgal said.
Turgal offered "our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family, friends and co-workers of Nicholas Ivie and to our partners in the United States Border Patrol" on behalf of the FBI.
Ivie ate one of his last meals at Jimmy's Hot Dog Co., a Bisbee eatery popular among border agents.
Owners Jimmy and Pammy Pionke say Ivie was a frequent customer and served him the day before he died.
"This guy was a hero. No two ways about it. Not because he was out there battling Mexicans or anything like that, but because he was out there doing his job," said Jimmy Pionke, who once worked on the Chicago police force.
"It doesn't make any difference if he was killed by Mexican military, Mexican drug dealers, gun runners, friendly fire or moon rays shot by Martians. He died on the job, and that's what's important. Period."
Kevin Goates, Sierra Vista Arizona LDS stake president and spokesman for the Ivie family, said the family may have a statement Saturday regarding the new development. Goates also said he's attempting to organize a news conference for Saturday, though the family likely would not attend.
The report comes as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano met Friday with federal, state and local police agencies.
Napolitano made no public comments about the shooting possibly involving friendly fire.
"I am deeply saddened by the death our fallen colleague," she said. "This tragedy reminds us of the risks our men and women confront, the dangers they willingly undertake, while protecting our nation's borders. Together, we stand in solidarity with their families and friends, and pray for the continued safety of all who serve our country."
The secretary spent a few hours at the Brian A. Terry Border Station and appeared to board a Blackhawk helicopter for an aerial tour of the border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection deputy commissioner David Aguilar and Border Patrol Cmdr. Jeffrey Self joined Napolitano, according to Homeland Security.
Napolitano also traveled to Arizona to express condolences to Ivie's family.
During a press conference Friday afternoon in Phoenix, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said she was still waiting for the FBI to release the findings of its investigation into the shooting.
"I have been in contact with the Border Patrol, and we have been made aware that they are still investigating," Brewer said.
The governor said she plans to attend a memorial service for Ivie on Monday in Sierra Vista.
"At this time, I think it's important for all of us to remember … we lost truly an American hero who gave it all for protection of our great country," Brewer said.
Ivie was shot and killed early Tuesday morning after responding on horseback to a tripped ground sensor a few miles north of Naco, Ariz. Another agent was injured in the shooting and a third was unharmed.23 comments on this story
Initial reports from U.S. and local officials blamed the shootings on armed criminals. Mexican police said Thursday that they arrested two suspects in a Mexican military operation in the city of Agua Prieta, in Mexico's northern Sonora state, a few miles from where Ivie was shot, Reuters reported.
Ivie's death marked the first fatal shooting of an agent since a deadly 2010 firefight with Mexican bandits who killed U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010 and spawned congressional probes of a botched government gun-smuggling investigation.
Twenty-six Border Patrol agents have died in the line of duty since 2002.
Contributing: The Associated Press