Other Voices: Texas deserves answers in deaths of Border Patrol agents
By Houston Chronicle
Jan. 2, 2018 at 11:59 p.m.
Angie Ochoa recently made a sad pilgrimage.Along a remote stretch of Interstate 10 in West Texas, Ochoa visited the culvert where something terrible happened to her fiancé, Rogelio Martinez. He's the Border Patrol agent who was killed while one of his colleagues was seriously injured in a still-mysterious incident six weeks ago.
Politicians pounced on the tragedy to justify the growing militarization of the Texas-Mexico border, even though what transpired that night in the desert is unclear.
"None of it made sense, so I wanted to see for myself," said the woman Martinez had planned to marry.
All she wants is an answer to a simple question: What happened? The agent's family deserves an explanation, and so do we all.
What little the public has heard about this episode comes mostly from conflicting statements offered by Border Patrol union officials and the local county sheriff. Union leaders are convinced the agents were attacked by drug dealers or illegal immigrants. They've told reporters their information indicates Martinez went to check out a ground sensor and called for backup from another agent, who found Martinez unconscious. The next officers on the scene, they say, found both men badly hurt. The agents were transported to an El Paso hospital, where Martinez later died. His injured partner reportedly said he couldn't remember what happened.
But Culberson County Sheriff Oscar Carrillo, who was one of the first responders on the scene, told The Dallas Morning News a different story. He found no evidence the agents were attacked. He said his office was called "to assist in the incident as an injury, not an assault." The sheriff sees a lot of accidents along the desert highway and has speculated a tractor-trailer may have sideswiped the men as they stood on the roadside.
Nonetheless, elected officials quickly trumpeted the story to fan the flames of border hysteria. President Trump cited the incident as a justification for building his border wall. Sen. Ted Cruz called it "a stark reminder of the ongoing threat that an unsecure border poses."
Texans who live along the border complain such fear-mongering politicians recklessly vilify their communities by characterizing them as hotbeds of violence and crime. The knee-jerk supposition that these two agents were attacked does a disservice to people living in relatively peaceful border areas.
Martinez's grieving fiancée isn't the only person who's puzzled about what happened. Although the investigation is still underway, both the Border Patrol and the FBI need to clarify what they know about the circumstances surrounding the agent's death. In the meantime, elected officials should quit sounding alarms over what might turn out to be an accident. The politically charged speculation needs to come to an end.