Following a three month investigation into the mysterious death of a Border Patrol agent in West Texas, the FBI has announced it found no evidence to support earlier claims that the agent was attacked or murdered.
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. Both men were taken to the hospital with serious injuries, and Martinez died the next day. Garland was eventually released, but he has been unable to remember how they ended up in the culvert. The FBI began investigating the incident as a “potential assault” but released few details early on and cautioned against speculation.
But that didn’t stop some Texas politicians—including Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Greg Abbott, and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick—from quickly suggesting Martinez was killed in an attack by drug traffickers and calling for an increase in resources toward border security.
Cruz, in a November news release, called Martinez’s death “a stark reminder of the ongoing threat that an unsecure border poses to the safety of our communities and those charged with defending them.” Abbott offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest of the supposed murderer, and he said in a tweet that “our resources must be increased to prevent these attacks in the future.” Patrick tweeted that Martinez was “murdered in the line of duty.” And in a tweet about Martinez’s death, President Donald Trump wrote that “we will, and must, build the Wall!”
Our prayers are with the families of this Border Patrol Agent who was killed & the other who was injured in this attack in Texas. Our resources must be increased to prevent these attacks in the future. #txlege #tcot https://t.co/60tHfoWKRq
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) November 20, 2017
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2017
It turns out there probably was no attack. “To date, none of the more than 650 interviews completed, locations searched, or evidence collected and analyzed have produced evidence that would support the existence of a scuffle, altercation, or attack,” FBI officials, from the El Paso Division, said in a statement released on Wednesday. The FBI did determine that a Border Patrol dispatcher had spoken to a disoriented Garland, who said that he thought they “ran into a culvert.” A day before the FBI’s announcement, the El Paso County Medical Examiner had released an autopsy report, citing “blunt injuries of the head as the cause of death,” but it did not add any details to the manner of Martinez’s death.
The FBI said it will “pursue any new and relevant tips and leads” and will continue to offer a $50,000 reward “for information leading to a resolution to this case.”
While it remains a mystery what, exactly, happened to Martinez and Garland, there’s no reason to believe they were attacked or ambushed. We reached out to the offices of Cruz and Abbott to see if they still support their earlier assertions, but we have not received a response.