By Steve Neavling
The details surrounding the death and serious injuries of two Border Patrol agents on the night of Nov. 18 were almost immediately blamed on stone-throwing immigrants.
But the FBI and other investigators are skeptical, saying the agents may have fallen into a ravine.
Nevertheless, President Trump, Texas politicians and the right-wing site Breitbart spun a tale that claimed Rogelio Martinez, 36, died from injuries sustained in an attack. His partner was critically injured.
A day after the injuries were reported, Trump tweeted, “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!”
Trump added that the surviving agent had been “badly beaten,” The Texas Observer points out .
The union that represents Border Patrol agents, the National Border Patrol Council, suggested the agents were attacked, though Breitbart acknowledged in its story that “details on the matter are scarce.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, with no information to back up the story, added to the rhetoric, saying the agent had been “killed” in what is “a stark reminder of the ongoing threat that unsecure border poses to the safety of our communities and those charged with defending them.”
The Culberson County Sheriff’s office, which is working with the FBI task force, told the Dallas Morning News  on November 20 that the evidence he saw was “very consistent with a fall.”
The Observer wrote:
Top Texas Republicans, however, weren’t going to let ambiguity get in the way of a good story. The state’s senior U.S. senator, John Cornyn, was marginally more measured than Cruz, telling a radio interviewer  that “at least preliminarily” the incident was an “ambush by drug traffickers,” though he added that the details were unconfirmed. Governor Greg Abbott, meanwhile, went even further, introducing the idea that “murder” had occurred. In a press release, he announced  a $20,000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of those responsible for Martinez’s “murder,” which Breitbart quickly turned into a story:  “Texas Governor Offers $20,000 for Info on ‘Murder’ of Border Patrol Agent.”
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton joined in as well, both sharing inflammatory articles published shortly after the incident. Patrick selected a Fox News article  headlined: “Border agent killed, partner injured by illegal immigrants using rocks, report says.” The supposed “report,” the reader finds, is just a quote from a Border Patrol union official given to another media outlet. Paxton chose  Breitbart as his own source.
It’s entirely possible that the Breitbart version of events will turn out to be true, but more than a week after the incident became public, the FBI has yet to release any additional information. Jeanette Harper, a spokesperson for the agency’s El Paso field office, told the Observer on Tuesday that the agency is currently looking into tips. She said it would likely be a while before they could say anything further.