The U.S. Border Patrol agent whose mysterious death last fall sparked a political firestorm apparently crashed his vehicle into a ditch shortly before he was found with traumatic head injuries, federal officials said Wednesday.
Agent Rogelio Martinez and his partner, Stephen Garland, were found at the bottom of a culvert near Van Horn, about 120 miles southeast of El Paso, in November. Patrick tweeted that Martinez was "murdered in the line of duty". Garland also suffered injuries. "There were no defensive wounds" on Martinez and Garland and "there was no third-party blood or DNA evidence from the scene or from the agents' clothing", reads a memo sent by US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. The assertion has been echoed by Texas politicians such as Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. Ted Cruz and other officials have said the agents were attacked, that hasn't been confirmed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
On Twitter, President Donald Trump said the injured agent had been "brutally beaten" and called again for the construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico.
"This investigation has been the top priority of the El Paso FBI Field Office, and the FBI has aggressively pursued all logical leads and investigative avenues", the FBI said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
The FBI conducted more than 650 interviews and investigated a number of theories, the agency said Wednesday. The FBI reports the only footprints at the scene of the incident belonged to the agents and first responders. Garland can't remember, and the months long investigation by the FBI hasn't led to any conclusions or suspects. The FBI released the statement the day after an autopsy report was released stating Martinez died of blunt force trauma to the head, but with no determination of what caused the injury.
Martinez had fractures to his skull, right jaw, upper ribs and his right collarbone, the report by the El Paso County Medical Examiner's Office says.
Sheriff Oscar Carrillo of Culberson County, where the two officers were injured, was on scene that night. The partner says he has no memory of what happened. In an interview with the Current at the Border Security Expo last week, Cabrera said he knows with "absolute certainty" any claims that Martinez wasn't attacked are false.
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Martinez died the next day from his injuries.
In December, agents were chasing a tip that two undocumented brothers, suspected drug smugglers, had attacked the agents, according to a search warrant filed unsealed in New Mexico. Investigators said Garland made a statement to the effect of "We ran into a culvert", "I ran into a culvert", or "I think I ran into a culvert".
In contrast, the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), a union representing border patrol agents, had suggested that Martinez and his partner were ambushed with rocks by someone or some people, Reuters reported.
"As part of this effort, the FBI has investigated multiple theories, including whether the Border Patrol Agents were ambushed or attacked or whether their injuries were as a result of an accident or any other relevant criminal activity", El Paso Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. said in a press statement Wednesday afternoon. Disoriented and unsure of his location, Garland told the dispatcher that he and Martinez were injured.
A Customs and Border Protection spokesperson declined to comment on the case.
"When Agent Martinez was found by first responders, it was 11:26 p.m. on a moonless night at the base of a culvert just off Interstate Highway 10".