EL PASO, Texas (KFOX14) — A union official says a U.S. border agent who died while on patrol in West Texas appears to have been struck in the head with a rock or rocks.
Chris Cabrera, a spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council, said Monday that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents who responded to the scene Sunday described it as "grisly" and said the dead agent, 36-year-old Rogelio Martinez, and his partner had "extensive injuries."
It was a deadly day for the Border Patrol in West Texas Sunday, after Martinez was killed in the line of duty, and his partner was badly injured.
Elected officials have said the agents were attacked near Van Horn, which is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the Mexico border and about 110 miles (177 kilometers) southeast of El Paso.
A Border Patrol spokesman said Martinez died at a hospital and that his partner, whose name hasn't been released, was seriously injured.
Martinez was on a call with his partner early Sunday morning. They were on Interstate 10 near Mile Marker 151. Then according to investigators, his partner called for help saying they had both been hurt.
Investigators haven't released certain details about the case, including what time it happened and whether they're pursuing specific suspects.
Law enforcememnt officers were investigating along Interstate 10 in Culberson County piecing together what happened. Helicopters flying overhead, according to officials, were looking for suspects and witnesses from above.
There hasn't been an official explanation of what happened. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Big Bend Sector Acting Chief Victor Velazquez said he will be providing more information about the deadly attack Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Residents of Van Horn were alarmed by the news.
"This is a small community. You don't think about this happening next door. You think about this happening somewhere else,” said Van Horn resident Adrian Gilmore. “But it's like Bill Watterson said, we're all somebody else to somebody else. So it can happen anywhere. But it's absolutely terrifying."
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Martinez was an El Paso native. He had been a Border Patrol agent since 2013.
KFOX14 learned that Martinez went to Irvin High School in El Paso. One of his close high school friends tells us he graduated in 1999. She said Martinez was a brother and a father.
In Van Horn, residents said the Border Patrol has a big presence in their community.
"I mean you see them, definitely,” Gilmore said. “As well as state troopers and the sheriffs. We feel pretty protected here in this community. So to hear about something like an attack on officers, we want to make sure that we can do whatever we can to help."
President Donald Trump said those responsible for his death will be held accountable.
The FBI released the following statement on the incident:
First and foremost, the thoughts and prayers of all the federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies involved are with the family, friends and U.S. Border Patrol work force during this tragic time.
On November 18, 2017, at approximately 11:20 p.m. CST, U.S. Border Patrol Agents from the Van Horn Station in the Big Bend Sector, located two injured Border Patrol agents in a culvert area adjacent to Interstate 10, about 12 miles east of Van Horn. They provided the injured Agents with immediate medical care and transported them to a local Van Horn hospital.
Both agents sustained traumatic head injuries, along with other miscellaneous physical injuries such as broken bones. At a local hospital in Van Horn, it was determined both of the agents’ injuries were severe and required advanced medical care. The injured agents were airlifted separately to a local hospital in El Paso, Texas.
Sadly, Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez succumbed to his injuries and died in the early morning hours of Sunday, November 19, 2017. The results of an autopsy are pending. The second injured Border Patrol Agent is currently in a local El Paso hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) in stable condition.
The FBI, as the lead agency for investigating any potential assault on a federal officer, became the lead on this investigation yesterday, November 19, 2017. Whenever the FBI suspects a member of the federal law enforcement community has been the victim of a violent assault, the FBI is responsible for investigating the matter. The FBI is working closely with U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (including CBP Air and Marine), Texas Department of Public Safety, and United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas. Additionally, the FBI has received assistance from the HSI, DEA, CBP Office of Professional Responsibility, Department of Homeland Security’s-Office of Inspector General, El Paso Police Department, and Culberson County Sheriff’s Department.
The FBI is asking anyone with information about this tragic incident to contact the FBI 24 hours a day at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or online at tips.fbi.gov. The FBI is aggressively investigating all leads coming in from the public and through investigative activities.