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Border agent remembered as loving father, husband

Mounted officers line the route during the funeral procession for slain U.S. Border Patrol agent Nicholas Ivie on Monday, Oct. 8, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Sierra Vista, Ariz.
Mounted officers line the route during the funeral procession for slain U.S. Border Patrol agent Nicholas Ivie on Monday, Oct. 8, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Sierra Vista, Ariz. Brian Skoloff / AP
/ Source: NBC News and news services

A U.S. Border Patrol agent killed in an apparent friendly fire shooting with two other agents was being remembered as a family man who loved his job and his colleagues.

Agent Nicholas J. Ivie, 33, was killed before daybreak on October 2 as he and the other agents responded to a sensor alarm aimed at detecting smugglers crossing into the U.S. The shooting occurred just five miles north of the border near Bisbee, Ariz.

FILE - This undated photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows slain Border Patrol agent Nicolas Ivie. The fatal shooting of Ivie and the wounding another U.S. Border Patrol agent near the Arizona-Mexico border may have been a case of friendly fire, a union chief for border agents and law enforcement officials said Friday, Oct. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/U.S. Customs and Border Protection, File)Uncredited / U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The FBI says it appeared to be friendly fire. National Border Patrol Council president George McCubbin says Ivie apparently shot first, accidentally wounding another agent before being killed in return fire. An investigation is ongoing.

Ivie's death marked the first fatal shooting of an agent since a deadly 2010 firefight with Mexican gunmen that killed U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010 and spawned congressional probes of a botched government gun-smuggling investigation.

During his funeral Monday, friends and family remembered Ivie as a loving father who was active in his Mormon church and dedicated to his profession.

"Our best wishes and prayers continue for the other agents involved in the incident, that they may experience healing and peace. We honor all who serve in the Border Patrol, carrying out an extremely difficult task under harsh conditions," the family said in a statement issued late on Sunday.

"We are grateful for all the efforts by so many to thoroughly investigate what took place during that early morning tragedy."

'Tragic accident'
A Cochise County Sheriff's spokeswoman said Ivie and the two other agents, who had communicated with one another, had come from different directions and that the two agents had taken defensive postures that were "interpreted as aggressive."

The second agent whose name has not been released was shot in the buttocks and the ankle. He was treated and is reportedly recovering at home. A third agent, who also remains unnamed, was unharmed.

"They knew they were all in the same area," spokeswoman Carol Capas told Reuters. "It's obviously a tragic accident due to the circumstances with what appears to be friendly fire."

On Monday, as details of the incident continued to trickle out, a horse-drawn carriage carried Ivie's coffin through the streets of the small town of Sierra Vista to a Mormon church for funeral services. Ivie's horse, Mouse, also took part in the procession, mounted with an empty saddle.

Later, Border Patrol officers in uniforms and wearing white gloves carried Ivie's body to a white hearse marked with two small U.S. flags and put the coffin, draped in a U.S. flag, inside.

Family members of Ivie sat in the front row at the services alongside the agent wounded in the shooting, who was embraced by Ivie's father. Ivie had learned Spanish on a two-year Mormon mission in Mexico City and lived in Sierra Vista with his wife and two young daughters.

During an emotional eulogy after the funeral procession, Ivie's brother, Joel, said the slain agent may have placed the sensor that he was responding to when he was killed. Ivie was expected to be buried on Thursday in Utah.

"He died in a beautiful place," Joel Ivie said. "He knew that network of trails on the mountain."

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.