The mysterious death of a border patrol agent is prompting new calls for Trump's border wall

  • Questions are lingering around the mysterious death of Rogelio Martinez, a border patrol agent who died in Texas last weekend after sustaining severe injuries.
  • Investigators have said they're looking into whether a "potential assault" occurred, but cannot rule out the possibility it was an accident.
  • The incident has become a flashpoint in the ongoing debate over President Donald Trump's long-promised border wall.


FBI officials said Tuesday they were investigating a "potential assault" that may have led to the death of a border patrol agent in southwest Texas last weekend, but they added that they could not rule out another cause of death.

The mysterious case of 36-year-old Rogelio Martinez's death has prompted frenzied speculation that an ambush took place, perhaps at the hands of undocumented immigrants or drug traffickers, though officials have cautioned that the details around the death are hazy and they have not yet reached conclusions.

Officials from the federal Customs and Border Protection agency have said that Martinez and his fellow agent were "responding to activity" near a drainage culvert along Interstate 10 in Van Horn, Texas around 4 a.m. on Sunday when they were somehow hurt. Martinez's partner then called for help and the pair were taken to a hospital, where Martinez later died from his injuries.

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President Donald Trump's border wall prototypes
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President Donald Trump's border wall prototypes
A border patrol officer stands next to some of U.S. President Donald Trump's eight border wall prototypes as they near completion along U.S.- Mexico border in San Diego, California, U.S., October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Federal agents patrol next to U.S. President Donald Trump's eight border wall prototypes as they near completion along U.S.- Mexico border in San Diego, California, U.S., October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
One of U.S. President Donald Trump's eight border wall prototypes is pictured along U.S.- Mexico border near San Diego, California, U.S., October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Seven of U.S. President Donald Trump's eight border wall prototypes are shown near completion along U.S.- Mexico border near San Diego, California, U.S., October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
One of U.S. President Donald Trump's eight border wall prototypes is pictured along U.S.- Mexico border near San Diego, California, U.S., October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Two of U.S. President Donald Trump's eight border wall prototypes are shown near completion along U.S.- Mexico border near San Diego, California, U.S., October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A prototype for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico is seen behind the current border fence in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
A prototype for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico is seen in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
Prototypes for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico are shown near completion behind the current border fence, in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border, in Tijuana, Mexico, October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
Three of U.S. President Donald Trump's eight border wall prototypes are shown near completion along U.S.- Mexico border in San Diego, California, U.S., October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A prototype for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico is shown in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border, in Tijuana, Mexico, October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
Prototypes for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico are shown near completion in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border, in Tijuana, Mexico, October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
People work in San Diego, California, U.S., at the construction site of prototypes for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico, in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
People work in San Diego, California, U.S., at the construction site of prototypes for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico, in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
People work in San Diego, California, U.S., at the construction site of prototypes for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico, in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
People work in San Diego, California, U.S., at the construction site of prototypes for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico, in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People work in San Diego, California, U.S., at the construction site of prototypes for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico, in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
People (R) work in San Diego, California, U.S., at the construction site of prototypes for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico, in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
People work in San Diego, California, U.S., at the construction site of prototypes for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico, in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
Prototypes for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico are seen behind the current border fence in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Prototypes for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico are seen behind the current border fence in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
A prototype for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico is seen in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
A prototype for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico is seen in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
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Authorities said another agent, who has not been identified, was also seriously injured in the incident, and both men suffered traumatic head injuries and broken bones.

"We call it potential because we do not yet have the full picture yet as to what transpired," FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. said at a press conference at the FBI's El Paso office. He added that the bureau is offering a $25,000 reward for information that could lead to the case being solved.

One US official familiar with the investigation, however, told the Associated Press on Monday that investigators believe Martinez and the other agent may have sustained their injuries by falling into the culvert. The official added that Martinez's partner has no recollection of the incident.

The local sheriff in Culberson County, where the incident occurred, also appeared skeptical that an attack was the cause of the injuries and death.

"The evidence is not obvious as to what happened out there," Sheriff Oscar Carrillo told the Dallas Morning News.

'We will build the Wall!

The National Border Patrol Council, the labor union representing the agents, has described the incident as an "ambush" and told media that Martinez died of blunt force trauma to the head.

"I have been told by several agents that it was a grisly scene, and that his injuries were very extensive," council president Brandon Judd told The Washington Post. "We believe he was struck in the head with rocks, or multiple rocks."

But despite the questions still surrounding Martinez's death, Texas politicians have presumed that a crime occurred. Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz, both Republicans, have described the incident as an "attack."

"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 said in a statement.

President Donald Trump also seized on the death, which he suggested on Twitter was a criminal matter, as evidence of the pressing need for his long-promised wall along the US-Mexico border.

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Beach along US-Mexico border
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Beach along US-Mexico border

First Lady Pat Nixon inaugurated Friendship Park on August 18, 1971, when it was declared a national monument. Over 100 years prior, in 1848, the US built a pyramid-shaped statue on the San Diego beach to mark the end of the Mexican-American War.

Source: NBC News

(Photo via Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum)

“May there never be a wall between these two great nations,” the first lady said. “Only friendship.”

Source: The Washington Post

(Photo via Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum)

Today, there are 276 such monuments to the war along the border; the one in Friendship Park was the first.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Border security became more strict in the early 1990s. In 1994, as part of the Clinton administration’s Operation Gatekeeper, a fence was constructed on the border between San Diego and Tijuana — including in Friendship Park.

These security precautions made it more difficult for migrants to cross the border, and also increased the risk of heat stroke, dehydration, and hypothermia for those who tried. More than 6,000 migrants have died trying to cross the border since Operation Gatekeeper, according to a 2014 report by the International Organization for Migration.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

In 2009, the US side of Friendship Park was shut down and a second fence running parallel to the first was completed. The part of the fence that stretches into the park (and the Pacific Ocean) includes barbed wire, surveillance cameras, and sensors that can detect an unauthorized crossing.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

After protests, however, Friendship Park re-opened in 2012.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Today, people with US citizenship or a visa can visit the San Diego side on Saturdays and Sundays. (The Tijuana side is open 24-7.) Many come to see relatives through the fence, John Fanestil says.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Community organizations host a variety of events there, including mass services, drum circles, and yoga classes.

Source: Friendship Park

(Photo credit SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

In 2007, a group of American and Mexican middle and high school students created a community garden where anyone on the Tijuana side can plant crops and flowers. Gardeners, architects, and community organizations volunteer to keep it running.

"The garden started as a project ... to bring people with the common interest of promoting native flora together to make friends across the border fence while collaborating to improve the region," Friendship Garden's Facebook page reads.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

In celebration of the Mexican holiday Children's Day in 2016, five families were allowed to re-unite and hug at Friendship Park. When the emergency door opened, they each had three minutes to embrace.

The families underwent two background checks before their reunion, according to The Washington Post.

(Photo credit should read SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

Friends of Friendship Park is now pressuring the San Diego Border Control to let anyone access the San Diego park under border officials' watch.

(Photo credit should read SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

In early 2017, the organization launched a petition to further that goal. It has since garnered over 1,100 signatures. Representatives of the group have even met with architects to design a new border park.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

But San Diego Border Patrol officials have cited concerns about safety, security, and the trafficking of contraband as reasons not to increase contact between residents of the two countries in the park.

The members of Friends of Friendship park disagree, however.

"Collectively, our coalition members have spent thousands of hours at the park and are convinced that these concerns are unwarranted," Fanestil said. "More broadly, we believe that safety and security will be enhanced by greater degrees of public access and improved efforts at promoting friendship between the peoples of these two nations.

(Photo credit should read SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

Fanestil believes that Friendship Park will one day become truly bi-national. "This was its intended purpose," he said.

The coalition plans to unveil a proposal for a redesign of Friendship Park this fall.

(Photo credit should read GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images)
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"Border Patrol Officer killed at Southern Border, another badly hurt," he said. "We will seek out and bring to justice those responsible. We will, and must, build the Wall!"

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