WASHINGTON — Federal authorities said Friday that there were "strong preliminary indications" that a Border Patrol agent who was killed in a shooting Tuesday in Arizona near the border with Mexico was accidentally shot by another agent.
The authorities also said that another agent who was injured was also probably wounded by an agent.
"While it is important to emphasize that the FBI's investigation is actively continuing, there are strong preliminary indications that" the agents were shot by another agent, said James Turgal Jr., a senior official for the FBI in Arizona.
He added: "At the appropriate time further information will be provided, but while the investigation continues it would be inappropriate to comment any further at this time."
The agent who died, Nicholas Ivie, 30, of Provo, Utah, was shot as he and two other agents responded to a ground sensor that went off near the border Tuesday around 1:50 a.m.
At first, officials said they believed that the sensors had been set off by criminals at the border.
"They were both responding to the same location, one group from the north and another from the south," said George McCubbin III, the head of the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing agents.
After the shooting, Republican members of Congress on Tuesday tried to tie it to an investigation of gun trafficking known as Operation Fast and Furious, in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not seize hundreds of weapons that were purchased illegally, in the hope of tracing them to Mexican drug cartels.
Two of the guns were found at the scene of a 2010 shooting in which a Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, was killed.
The shooting Tuesday occurred near a Border Patrol station in Naco, Ariz., that had recently been named in honor of Terry.
"There's no way to know at this point how the agent was killed, but because of Operation Fast and Furious, we'll wonder for years if the guns used in any killing along the border were part of an ill-advised gun-walking strategy sanctioned by the federal government," Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Tuesday in a statement. "It's a sad commentary."
Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and a former governor of Arizona, met Friday with officials at the Border Patrol station where Ivie worked.
The Border Patrol agent who was wounded in the shooting Tuesday was not identified.