A Texas sheriff who was among the first people to reach two badly injured U.S. Border Patrol agents said he thought they were hurt in an accident, not an attack.
The injured agents were found the night of November 18 along a culvert next to Interstate 10 near Van Horn, which is about 110 miles (175 kilometers) southeast of El Paso and about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the border with Mexico.
Agent Rogelio Martinez succumbed to traumatic head injuries and broken bones. His partner, who has not been identified, was seriously injured and hospitalized for several days. The agent has no memory of what happened that night.
Culberson County Sheriff Oscar Carrillo said he thought a semitrailer-truck may have accidentally sideswiped the pair, the Dallas Morning News reported.
I-10 is a heavily traveled route for truck drivers and accidents regularly occur, some due to wind drafts and others from drivers overcorrecting after drifting across lanes, Carrillo said.
"From the beginning we were radioed to assist in the incident as an injury, not an assault,'' Carrillo told the newspaper. "That's the way it was communicated to us.
"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,'' he added.
It's not clear why Martinez and his partner were along the highway. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said only that they "were responding to activity.''
A Border Patrol union, the National Border Patrol Council, has said the pair were attacked and struck with a rock or rocks.
President Donald Trump, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Texas Governor Greg Abbott also have said the two were attacked.
Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. in the FBI's El Paso office said last week that investigators were treating the incident as a "potential assault,'' but that they could not rule out other scenarios.
Federal officials have released few details about the circumstances leading to the agents' injuries.