Similar Stories, Similar Endings
Last week’s Office of Inspector General report on ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious scandal gives me cause to move on to other stories on my beat. I’m always going to watch it, and I’ll definitely return to U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder as more fugitives are caught and trials, if any, commence.
I was out at Naco, Ariz., last week to watch as the Border Patrol named its station there after the murdered agent. It reminded me of the one of the first border stories I ever wrote, the naming of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument visitor center after murdered Park Service Ranger Kris Eggle.
The two cases are eerily similar.
In 2002, a pair of Sinaloan gunmen running from Sonora state police raced across the border (the fence was barbed wire there at the time). The gunman shot Eggle as he approached. Eggle died at the scene. The shooter was killed; his accomplice was the only one ever charged.
Eggle was 28 years old when he died. He grew up in Michigan, just like Terry. Like the Border Patrol agent, he hadn’t spent very many years on the border. He began working at Organ Pipe in 2000. He died in August 2002.
Terry was 40 when he was killed. He grew up in Michigan, later becoming a cop there. He’d been an agent four years.
I spoke with Eggle’s friends that day a year later, when they were naming the visitor center for him.
They described him as the type of ranger who would bellow out showtunes while chasing drug smugglers through the monument. He was also a runner. He would enter foot races with his friends and then finish the race and double back to cross the finish line a second time with them. Sometimes he would run off and complete the race before it even started.
Terry was a weightlifter. His friends called him Superman. At the academy one day, his superior officers thought he hadn’t followed an instruction so they ordered him to pick up his teammate and carry him in a fireman’s carry at a trot. He never balked, just did as he was told. Then his superiors learned he actually had followed orders and they told him he could stop. But he politely declined, saying he never leaves a man behind.
The former Marine carried a poem in his pack, One Warrior’s Creed. It begins, “If today is to be the day, so be it.”
He was killed in December 2010 in Rio Rico, after an encounter with a five-man ripoff crew who had come up from Sinaloa to hunt drug smugglers.
There’s no bigger point that I’m trying to make here. Both men would have been about the same age in 2010. They came from the same place, way up north in Michigan. They died along the Mexican border at the hands of killers from Sinaloa.
The border is always a place rich in irony. Now we have two buildings along the boundary named for murdered agents.