In the field, Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie was the officer who once carried a pregnant woman for a mile and a half after finding her in the desert barefoot and bleeding.
At home, he was the father who played with his young children, ages 1 and 4, pulling them around in a trailer. Growing up in Utah, Ivie was the youngest of his siblings, but they all looked up to him.
This was how Ivie’s relatives, including more than two dozen members of his extended family who flew in from Utah, want the American people to remember the 30-year-old agent who was fatally shot while on patrol Tuesday near the border town of Naco, Ariz.
On Thursday, family members flanked Ivie’s widow, Christy, some holding her hand and embracing her as two brothers answered questions during a news conference in Sierra Vista, the southeastern Arizona town where he lived.
Ivie’s widow and brother Joel — also a Border Patrol agent who worked horse-patrol duty alongside Nicholas — silently observed the news conference.
“Joel loves what he does. Nick did what he loved,” said brother Rick Ivie. “There is always a concern, but we try not to dwell or focus on that.”
Chris and Rick Ivie said they were so overcome with grief that they don’t have time to be angry at whoever killed their little brother. Instead, they said the family is focusing on Ivie’s widow and children.
They described the slain agent as a man who loved the outdoors and horses.
He led a life of service, his brothers said. It originated as a follower of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He went on mission in Mexico City and learned Spanish, became a leader in his local church and joined the Border Patrol in hopes of helping protect his nation.
“He was a hero,” Chris Ivie said.
Ivie, who was on horse-patrol duty at the time, and two other agents were responding to reports of a tripped ground sensor when they were attacked early Tuesday morning.
One of the other agents who was also shot is recovering at home, Customs and Border Protection officials said. The third agent was not injured. Authorities did not release their names.
The Ivie family members said their thoughts were with the two agents.
The killing sparked a manhunt along the barren desert terrain known for human and drug smuggling near the Mule Mountains. The FBI and Cochise County sheriff’s department are investigating the case.
A high-ranking U.S. Customs and Border Protection official said Mexican law enforcement authorities have detained several people, but the detainees have not been tied to the shooting in the U.S.
“There is nothing to say that anybody picked up so far is linked directly to it,” said the official, who requested anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
A Mexican military official said authorities have interrogated the detainees, who were found with drugs and weapons just south of the border where the agents were shot, but thus far have found no evidence of a connection.
Ivie was stationed at the Border Patrol station in Bisbee. That station was recently named after Brian Terry, another Border Patrol agent slain in the same area two years ago during a shootout with bandits. Two guns used in Terry’s shooting were later linked to the federal government’s “Fast and Furious” gun-tracking operation.