Dec 7, 2017, 10:04 AM ET

FBI still stumped over Border Patrol agent's death

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For three weeks, the FBI has been chasing down tips and leads, trying to figure out what left one Border Patrol agent dead and another seriously injured along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas.

But authorities are still stumped. They are no closer to finding concrete answers than they were right after finding the agents at the bottom of a deep culvert, ABC News was told.

"All we have done is rule out people," one law enforcement source said.

Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez died from head injuries and blood loss, and agent Stephen Garland also suffered serious head trauma. Garland has told authorities he can't remember what happened that night, sources told ABC News.

PHOTO: U.S. Border Agent Rogelio Martinez, 36, who died while patrolling in a remote part of west Texas, is shown in this undated photo provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in El Paso, Texas, Nov. 21, 2017. Courtesy of FBI/Handout via Reuters, FILE
U.S. Border Agent Rogelio Martinez, 36, who died while patrolling in a remote part of west Texas, is shown in this undated photo provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in El Paso, Texas, Nov. 21, 2017.

The FBI has taken over the case, and on Saturday, bureau agents thought they were onto something: A confidential source claimed that within a group of undocumented immigrants recently smuggled into the United States were two people who "discussed their assault of the agents," according to FBI documents filed in the case.

The FBI then identified both men — one of them in Odessa, Texas, and the other an alleged drug smuggler in Portales, New Mexico, according to an FBI affidavit filed in the case. FBI agents interviewed the alleged drug smuggler, who denied any involvement, and searched his car, the affidavit said. But agents didn't find anything of significant value in the vehicle, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Both men are no longer considered suspects in the case, the sources said. The alleged drug smuggler, however, has been arrested and charged with entering the country illegally, according to court documents.

Around midnight on Nov. 19, Martinez and Garland were responding to a sensor triggered near Van Horn, Texas. They were later found in a culvert beside a road.

There was no guardrail on the road. There were no lights nearby and "zero illumination," and there was a "sheer drop" to the bottom of the culvert, one law enforcement source said.

PHOTO: A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent drives along Interstate 10, on Nov. 22, 2017, in Van Horn, Texas.John Moore/Getty Images
A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent drives along Interstate 10, on Nov. 22, 2017, in Van Horn, Texas.

"Everything we have here looks like an accident," the source said, noting that "it takes time" to make a final determination.

Addressing reporters shortly after the death of Martinez became publicly known, President Donald Trump said without caveat that the two agents were "brutally beaten."

The National Border Patrol Council, a union representing border agents, suggested the men were beaten to death with rocks. And Texas Gov. Greg Abbott offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in what his office described as a "murder."

"It's terrible," one law enforcement source said of the unfounded speculation surrounding Martinez's death. "His family doesn't know what happened. And they believe what they're reading."

Asked about the status of the FBI investigation, a spokeswoman for the FBI field office in El Paso, Texas, which is handling the case, said in a statement, "The FBI is not commenting."

"The investigation is ongoing," she added. "We are aggressively addressing all tips and leads that come [in]."

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  • Golgafrinchan_Ark_B

    I admit to being confused. The two men were found at the bottom of a steep, shear-drop ravine; They were next to a road without a guard rail or illumination. So, one agent walked off the road into the ravine, falling, and the other one tried to help him and then also fell? Their car was left on the road, I presume. Was it sideswiped or not, as some posters here are saying?

    OR, did they actually drive off the road, down into that steep ravine, and were found in or near their car? Boss Tweet is saying that they were badly beaten. If they were in their car, were they beaten and then returned to their car? It's certainly not possible to badly beat somebody within the confines of a patrol car, unless they were in a van. Even in a car accident, it's still possible to see if it was sideswiped. (Are there traces of a different paint color on one side of the vehicle? Is there debris ON the road, like a swiped-off side mirror and torn metal?

    So, where were these men found in conjunction to that patrol car? This article is light on those kinds of details. (I'm sure that the Sheriff and the FBI know, but it doesn't seem like the article does. And from the comments, people here "know" all kinds of conflicting stuff.)

  • Ragoftag

    Two healthy men fall into a 14 foot gully and both are injured to the point one dies AND the other is in intensive head injuries AND break multiple broken bone? I've fallen further onto concrete and 'walked away' (OK, limped). And the FBI claims...they can't even see crimes committed by the Clintons.

  • George Rowe

    Forensics should show clearly what caused the injuries.
    In any case we are not nearly tough enough on illegal migrants.
    They should be immediately deported and if/when again cought
    illegally entering our country sent to a prison in their home country.
    George

  • ababg

    "U.S. Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez was murdered, his partner was
    assaulted and the men were left to die in a Texas culvert last month,
    according to an FBI agent's sworn affidavit -- the most concrete
    official statement indicating the agents were savagely attacked, and a
    firm rebuttal of a local sheriff's claim the men were injured in a
    traffic accident."

    This according to Fox.

    There's also a picture of the culvert. It's like a 5ft drop. Nothing that kill someone.

    It sounds like the local sheriff is trying to cover something up.

  • GorillaMyDreams

    I'm sure the conspiracy theorists are having fun with this one.

  • tet1953

    Has anyone considered that maybe these two agents got in a fight with each other?

  • BigB

    FBI is stumped again. They appear to be stumped on the Los Vegas shootings as well. What exactly are they not stumped about? Oh that is right they have proof that they paid an ex British spy for that dossier on Trump that turned out to be fake. SMH

  • BigB

    Another failure by the politicized FBI. SMH

  • Edup McD

    Trump holding the highest & most important position in our country can deliberately & ruthlessly blame whoever/whatever as well as spread fake news like wildfire w/out repercussions, but the media is held brutally accountable for mistakes ...
    Hoping Mueller & his team can use Donnie Dotard's tweets against him just as they have in court w/the travel ban ... ;-)

  • snake

    The FBI is using facts to attempt to determine the cause of death. If Trump is succesful they will use politics to determine the cause and blame illegal immigrents or Muslims .

  • Anthony Cieszkiewicz

    Quite unusual & amazing that the medical examiner cannot determine the cause of death, as the trauma injuries as a result of a traffic accident should be quite distinct from the trauma injuries of being bludgeoned to death. Other evidence at the scene should support on of the two mutually exclusive alternatives.... I am beginning to suspect that this murder and attempted murder are simply too brutal to share with the public.

  • Red Hawk

    This could very well turn out to be an accident.

  • Calibandawg

    I am not very impressed with the reporting from either the print journalist or Mr. Moore. If it was an unilluminated place, did they not have flashlights? Was there damage to the vehicle as one commenter has stated? Footprints? I know some information necessarily is kept under wraps but there should be more information provided than this.

  • Ideology

    They are having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that this wasn't done by an illegal immigrant.

  • Dicazi

    An article on another site brought up the possibility that they had been sideswiped by a large semi, who may not have realized he had hit them.
    The winds in that area have caused trucks to go left of center before.
    Their vehicle was damaged, but not determined just how.
    And amnesia for the event that injured you is common.
    The agent might start remembering things, or he might not ever.

  • Tertulliano

    playing cowboys and indians has some bad repercussions, especially when they blame illegal immigrants for their mischief.

  • Eric Matthews

    The Agent who can't remember anything ... is lying.

  • Blkhawksgrl

    accidents do happen but these men were probably very familiar with the roads and terrain including driving them at night... they can only assume it was an accident but they don't know for sure... heck they could have been pushed off the road

  • Kobrakai7272

    Let me fix that headline for you: "FBI Still Stumped At How To Pin An Obviously Accidental Death On Undocumented Aliens"

  • donnie vanderford

    Yet trump and his ilk start screaming murder.

  • Raider

    This looks like an accident. However, since the "president" inserted himself into the investigation and claimed that these agents were attacked, this accident will need some brown people to make it a crime.

  • mollydtt

    Both Trump and Abbott declared that this was caused by illegal aliens. Trump used this as proof that he needs money for "the wall".

    And you know neither Trump nor Abbott would entertain the idea that they could be wrong about anything, ever.

  • oldschool

    It seems to be a simple accident that they fell except under the Trump version they were brutally attacked by illegals without a smidgen of proof that was the case.

  • David

    I wish I could remember who said it "It might not be a fact but it's true". To me that's Trump's world and so we now live in a country where truth can be altered to fit his and in this case Governor Abbott narrative.

  • Kobrakai7272

    Occam's razor. The simplest explanation is usually correct. These guys were playing cops and robbers in the dark on a culvert adjacent to a steep drop into a ravine with no guard rail or lights. It's not rocket science. There is no evidence of a beating because they weren't beaten. Unfortunately, the president promised a beating so now they will keep searching until they find an undocumented brown person to pin it on.

  • Jim Key

    The story is barren of facts. Did their vehicle go over the edge?
    Were they sent there or was it their idea? Did they still have their guns? Not only is Fake News rising in this country. No questions are asked. media lives on inuendo and press releases.

  • Kobrakai7272

    Must.... Blame..... Mexicans....

  • Thomas

    I am surprised that with all the forensic tools we have, that they can't determine the mechanism of death.

    What about the surviving officer, is he talking?

  • Puddin' Twain

    It may have been the result of a dispute between them and other Border Patrol agents involving corruption and illegal smuggling activities or between them and Mexican smugglers with whom they were cooperating. That would explain the inability to remember.