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Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie Killed in Desert Shootout

An overnight gun battle at the border left a federal agent dead early Tuesday, The Arizona Republic reports.

Border Patrol agent Nicholas Ivie was shot and killed while responding to an alarm triggered at the border near Naco. Authorities haven't yet apprehended Ivie's killers, but they're believed to be drug smugglers.

About 1:30 a.m., Ivie and two other agents were on foot, responding to a ground sensor that had been triggered nearby. The area is reportedly a known smuggling route, especially at night.

"That's a pretty active area," Cochise County Sheriff's Cmdr. Marc Denney told the Republic. "It's rough terrain, rocky and very hilly. A lot of low-lying brush."

The agents soon reported over radio that they were under fire while following a trail they had found in the area. Ivie was killed during the firefight. A fellow agent was injured.

Since the shooting, more than 200 agents and deputies have been combing the area for the killers on foot, on horseback, and by helicopter.

So far, the search hasn't turned up any suspects. However, if the shooters are apprehended, they'll likely be charged with first-degree murder. (Even if the culprits turn out to be Mexican nationals, they can still face justice in the United States, as the two countries have an extradition treaty.)

Under Arizona's criminal code, there are two categories of first-degree murder. One is the more traditional idea of murder: a deliberate, premeditated killing, meaning the perpetrator intended to kill his victim.

The other kind is known as felony murder. If a person is killed while the perpetrator commits a dangerous felony, the perpetrator can be charged with first-degree murder, even if he didn't directly kill the person. Dangerous felonies include burglary, robbery, sexual assault, and drug crimes.

Under the felony murder rule, even if Ivie was killed by friendly fire, the suspected drug smugglers could potentially be charged with first-degree murder. If convicted, the perpetrators could face the death penalty or life in prison.

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