LAS CRUCES — The FBI is using electronic billboards to reach out to motorists who were on Interstate 10 on Nov. 18, the night a Border Patrol agent died and his partner was seriously injured in West Texas.
Billboards across New Mexico, as well as in Arizona and southern California, will exhibit a photograph of Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez, who died of traumatic head injuries near a remote stretch of I-10 close to Van Horn, Texas, nearly two weeks ago.
“Since it was a holiday week, we understand I-10 is a popular corridor for individuals on vacation,” said Jeannette Harper, spokeswoman for the El Paso Division of the FBI.
The mysterious death happened the weekend before Thanksgiving when many more people than usual were on the road traveling to visit relatives. “That’s why we’re widening the scope,” Harper said.
Investigators say 36-year-old Martinez and his partner were on patrol searching the area for “activity” on Nov. 18. The agents were found injured in a culvert, and Martinez died the following day.
The surviving Border Patrol agent’s identity has not been made public. He suffered head trauma and has said he does not remember the incident, according to investigators.
The El Paso FBI office is leading the investigation and treating the case as a “possible” assault on a federal officer but also considering “all other avenues,” Harper said.
Among possible scenarios: an accidental fall into the culvert where the agents were found on that dark moonless night or a freak accident in which a vehicle or truck sideswiped the agents and knocked them into the culvert as they stood near I-10.
The Border Patrol agents’ union insists that the men were assaulted and discounts the possibility of an accidental fall or traffic accident.
Alfonso Perez, former deputy director of Customs and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said, “It would be very rare that two guys would get hit.” Perez retired in 2010 and now has his own risk assessment and security firm specializing in border issues.
Perez said as part of due diligence investigators would also look closely at the agents themselves and the period leading up to the deadly incident. “Do a real in-depth background on these employees. You’d go back 24 hours. Where were they? Who did they engage with?” Perez said.
Just days after Martinez’s death, the FBI set up a tip line and is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information that helps solve the case. The number to call is 1-800-CALL-FBI.
The agency has received “numerous leads,” according to Harper, who declined to give an exact number.
Electronic billboards will display the message across New Mexico today through Dec. 8.
“Any assistance we can get in the course of this investigation is greatly appreciated,” said Border Patrol spokesman Doug Mosier. ___
This article is written by Angela Kocherga from Albuquerque Journal and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.