A 36-year-old Border Patrol agent was killed in an ambush attack by assailants armed with rocks while on patrol along the southern border in Texas, union officials say. His partner was also injured in the Sunday morning incident.
Rogelio Martinez was rushed to the hospital, but died of his injuries, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a press release Sunday.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Agent Martinez and his family, and with the agent who was injured,” the agency said. The incident occurred near Van Horn in Culberson County in West Texas.
The agents were responding to “activity” in the Big Bend Sector, possibly picked up by an electronic sensor, the National Border Patrol Council told KTSM-TV. They were then ambushed and attacked. Few details about what happened have been released.
Brandon Judd, the president of the NBPC, the Border Patrol agents’ union, told Fox News that they attackers are believed to have been undocumented immigrants.
“We don’t know exactly what happened because we weren’t there. However, just from agents that were working in the area, reports are saying it was an attack and it would appear to be an ambush,” Judd told Fox News. He said Martinez was following footprints on a trail when he was attacked. There are no signs that any shots were fired by the agents and no evidence of a stabbing, Judd told the news network.
Here’s what we know so far:
1. Martinez Suffered Injuries to His Head & Body in the Rock Attack, the Border Patrol Agents’ Union Says
Rogelio Martinez and his partner, whose name has not been released, were on patrolthe morning of November 19 in the Big Bend Sector in Texas when the incident occurred, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.
They “were responding to activity while on patrol near Interstate 10, in the Van Horn Station area. 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,” the statement said.
According to an email from acting Border Patrol Commissioner Kevin McAleenan posted by the Border Patrol Foundation, Martinez was found “unconscious, with multiple injuries to his head and body.”
Details about what led to their injuries have not been released. No one has been arrested in connection to the incident. Jeanette Harper, a FBI spokeswoman with the agency’s El Paso office, told the San Antonio Express-News the agents were not shot.
“They were not fired upon,” Harper said. “There are so many different agencies working together that we need to come together and develop a timeline.”
Art Del Cueto, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union for Border Patrol agents, told KTSM-TV, “We strongly believe rocks were what was used.”
Photos from the scene showed investigators surrounding a Border Patrol pickup truck on a dirt area off the road.
“Border Patrol agents from Big Bend Sector and the Culberson County Sheriff’s Department secured the scene. ” the agency said in the statement. “The Culberson County Sheriff’s Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Office of Inspector General, and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility are investigating.”
The FBI’s El Paso office is leading the investigation, authorities said. Customs and Border Patrol would not provide further details about the incident, referring reporters to the FBI.
“The FBI is still actively investigating the incident and gathering the facts,” FBI spokeswoman Jeanette Harper told CNN.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has offered a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the attack, according to a press release. Tips made through the Texas Crime Stoppers can be made anonymously.
“We owe a great deal of gratitude to the brave men and women of the United States Border Patrol who serve every day to protect our homeland,” Abbott said in a statement. “Cecilia and I offer our deepest condolences to the families of the agents killed and seriously injured in this attack. As authorities continue their investigation, it is important that they receive any and all information to help apprehend and deliver swift justice to those responsible.”
Here is how you can submit a tip:
To be eligible for the cash rewards, anyone with information on fugitives can provide anonymous tips in three different ways:
-Call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-252-TIPS (8477)
-Text the letters ‘DPS’ – followed by your tip – to 274637 (CRIMES) from your cell phone
-Submit a web tip by visiting https://www.tipsubmit.com/WebTipsCSI.aspx?L=E&AgencyID=650.
2. His Partner Remains in Serious Condition With a Head Injury as Police Search for Witnesses & Suspects
Martinez’s partner, whose name has not been released, remains in serious condition at a local hospital. Police have not said what type of injuries the agent sustained during the incident.
“Responding agents also found the agent who initially made radio contact. They found him with injuries to his head, but conscious. The agents provided immediate medical care and transported him to a local hospital where he is in serious condition,” acting Border Patrol Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said.
While he recovers, police have been searching for both suspects and witnesses.
“The Border Patrol’s Special Operations Group and agents from CBP’s Air and Marine Operations are searching the area for potential suspects or witnesses,” the agency said in a statement.
The incident occurred about 90 miles from El Paso in an area along the Southwest border. According to The Associated Press, Border Patrol records show that Big Bend accounted for about 1 percent of the more than 61,000 apprehensions made in the southern border area between October 2016 and 2017. It is a difficult area for people to cross from Mexico into the United States because of mountains and the Rio Grande river, according to the AP.
More details about the incident are expected Monday.
“We are still working hard putting the facts together,” an FBI spokeswoman told the New York Times. “It’s a very active, fast-moving investigation.”
According to the Times, the Big Bend Sector covers about 135,000 square miles in Texas and Oklahoma. Culberson County, Texas, where the incident occurs, has a population of just about 2,400 and its southernmost area is only a few miles from the Texas-Mexico border, the Times reports.
3. Martinez, an El Paso Native, Had Been a Border Patrol Agent Since 2013 & Is Survived by His Fiancee & Son
Rogelio “Roger” Martinez is a native of El Paso, Texas, graduating from Irvin High School in 1999, according to his Facebook page. He joined the Border Patrol as an agent in August 2013, officials told KFOX-TV. He was part of the Border Patrol’s 1,018th graduating class of agents. He was assigned to the Big Bend Sector.
According to his Facebook page, Martinez has also lived in Temecula, California. He had been engaged since May 2017, according to his fiancee’s Facebook page. Along with his fiancee, he is survived by his son, according to Texas Public Radio.
“He would be the type of guy to give the shirt off his back and wouldn’t ask for nothing in response. Unfortunately, it was him. He was such a good guy, it’s so unfortunate. It’s not surprising at all (that he served in the Border Patrol), because all he wanted to do was just help people and help the world and try to make a difference,” Emory Crawford, his friend, told KVIA-TV.
“I had the pleasure of meeting you Roger Martinez. You are a true good soul. I still can’t accept you are gone,” Bridget Moon wrote on Facebook, along with a photo of Martinez. “You did so many good things for my girl and her children. You where not suppose to leave this soon. May God bless your kind soul. Thank you for everything you did. You will not be forgotten. R.I.P”
Arlene Lazcano wrote on Facebook, he was a “really good friend…all of our friend. May his family have comfort through this difficult time.”
Another friend, Larry Arellano, wrote, “Can’t believe the news I got today. Thank you for the many laughs and good times listening to our favorite band. RIP Roger Martinez you will be greatly missed buddy.”
Rudy Marin Jr. wrote on Facebook, “I never thought in a million years I would lose a friend like this. Rest In Peace Roger. Missing you already bro.”
4. President Trump Tweeted ‘We Will Seek Out & Bring to Justice Those Responsible’
President Donald Trump took to Twitter to post about Martinez’s death, calling for justice and also for a wall to be built.
“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!” Trump tweeted Sunday night.
Elaine Duke, the Trump administration’s acting Secretary of Homeland Security, issued a statement about the agent’s death.
“Earlier this morning, I was notified that Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez died as a result of serious injuries suffered while on patrol in the Big Bend Sector of our southern border in Texas. Agent Martinez was responding to activity while on patrol with another agent, who was also seriously injured,” she wrote. “We are fully supporting the ongoing investigation to determine the cause of this tragic event. 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.”
5. Senator Ted Cruz Called the Incident an ‘Attack’ on Border Patrol Agents & Said ‘We Are Grateful’ for Their ‘Courage & Sacrifice’
Texas Senator Ted Cruz was among those expressing condolences, calling the incident an “attack on two Big Bend Sector Border Patrol agents,” in a statement.
““Our condolences and prayers go out to the family and friends of Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez, who was killed this morning in the line of duty. We are also praying for the full recovery of his partner, who was also attacked,” Cruz said. “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 added, “We are grateful for the courage and sacrifice of our border agents who have dedicated their lives to keeping us safe. I remain fully committed to working with the Border Patrol to provide them with all the resources they need to safeguard our nation.”
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, also of Texas, said in a statement, “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.”
Fellow Texas Congressman Ted Poe tweeted, “This Sunday 36-year-old Agent Rogelio Martinez was killed manning Texas’s often violent southern border. 38 Border Patrol Agents have been killed while on patrol since 2003. Our agents are outmanned, outnumbered and out-financed trying to prevent drug cartels from entering the United States. We mourn the loss of this border protector and may God Bless his family. Our border protectors deserve our total support.”