When Texas Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez was found dying along the U.S.-Mexico border in mid-November, Republicans were quick to assert that he’d been killed in some sort of violent attack—presumably, they insinuated, by an undocumented immigrant.
However, according to one of the first responders who discovered Martinez at the scene, Martinez probably wasn’t killed by drug smugglers, human traffickers, or any of the GOP’s favorite immigration boogymen. Instead, Culberson County Sheriff Oscar Carrillo said on Wednesday, his death was likely the result of a traffic accident.
“From the beginning we were radioed to assist in the incident as an injury, not an assault,” Carrillo told the Dallas Morning News. “That’s the way it was communicated to us.”
According to Carrillo, Martinez and his partner—who suffered severe injuries in the incident, and has no recollection of what occurred—were probably sideswiped as they stood alongside a culvert on the side of the busy Interstate 10. There, he explained to the paper, truckers and other drivers are frequently buffeted by high wind gusts, and often overcompensate their position on the road.
“If this was an assault, believe me, as sheriff, I’d be the first one out there emphasizing safety in our community and with our deputies, pairing them up,” Carrillo told the Morning News. “But from what I know and see, that was not the case here.”
Carillo’s theory on Martinez’s tragic death runs decidedly counter to that of Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council labor union.
“I have been told by several agents that it was a grisly scene, and that his injuries were very extensive,” Judd told the Washington Post shortly after the Customs and Border Patrol agency announced Martinez’s death. “We believe he was struck in the head with rocks, or multiple rocks.”
Local representatives from the Border Patrol Council agreed, with one telling the Morning News:
Agent Martinez was ultimately murdered. The agents were tracking footprints and were ultimately ambushed, and assaulted by, I don’t know who, but it could have been illegal immigrants or drug traffickers.
Texas Republicans were also eager to characterize Martinez’s death as a deliberate act of violence. Both Governor Greg Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz described the incident as an “attack,” and demanded further resources for the agency. President Trump also used the tragedy to renew calls for his campaign promised-wall between the United States and Mexico:
No official cause of death has been determined yet. Speaking with the Associated Press last week, The FBI agent in charge of the investigation into the incident said that the team on the case was treating it as if it were an assault, but was thus far unable to rule out other explanations.