EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Border agents on Thursday honored their fallen comrades with a floral offering, reading of their names out loud and firing a 21-gun salute at the National Border Patrol Museum in Northeast El Paso.
One hundred and fifty-three agents have died on the job since the U.S. Border Patrol was created in 1924 in circumstances as diverse as being run over by smugglers to succumbing to heat exhaustion in the desert to perishing in rollover accidents during pursuits.
El Paso Border Patrol Deputy Chief Tim Sullivan said technology that enables border agents to be better aware of their surroundings is helping cut down risks. Cameras with infrared capabilities monitor the border wall 24-7; artificial intelligence camera towers track groups of people the minute they come over the border and step on ground sensors.
Still, Sullivan said the job of keeping the nation’s borders safe is inherently dangerous.
“We lost two agents in 2022 to vehicle accidents. Several of the names read died as a result of gunfire, and COVID took a big hit on us,” he said. “There is not one specific issue; it’s a dangerous job every day.”
Some of the names read included agents shot by border criminals in years past. Agent Brian Terry died of a gunshot wound to the back in an encounter with robbers near Nogales, Arizona, in 2010. Seven people were tried and convicted in connection to his death.
Agent Alexander Kirpnick, 27, was shot in the head while he and his partner attempted to arrest five drug smugglers, also near the Mexico-Arizona border, in 1998.
More recently, several border agents have taken their own lives in what one member of Congress called an “epidemic” in an agency that has seen several major migrant surges since the fall of 2018.
“We are here to pause and reflect and focus on the families of the fallen. The pain does not go away for these families, doesn’t go away for us. So, this is what we can do to honor their sacrifice,” Sullivan said.