A U.S. border patrol agent was killed Tuesday night during a shootout between agents and bandits.
The clash came after agents spotted suspected bandits known for targeting illegal immigrants along a violent smuggling corridor in the Arizona desert, National Border Patrol Council President T.J. Bonner said.
The gun battle started after Brian A. Terry, 40, and his four-man team came across five armed men in a remote area north of the border city of Nogales. They were waiting to rob illegal immigrants crossing into the U.S.
Terry, an Iraq War veteran, was killed in the shootout, and is the first border agent to be killed in the line of duty since 2009. He was a member of an elite border squad for the U.S. Border Patrol. No other members of his team were injured in the shooting.
Border Patrol spokesman Eric Cantu and FBI spokeswoman Brenda Lee Nath declined to confirm Bonner's account but said that authorities have four suspects in custody and are searching for a fifth. The Border Patrol declined to reveal the country of origin of the suspects.
"It is a stark reminder of the very real dangers our men and women on the front lines confront everyday as they protect our communities and the American people," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.
Terry, a native of the Detroit area, served in the Marines and as a police officer in the Michigan cities of Ecorse and Lincoln Park before joining the Border Patrol in 2007. He is survived by his mother, father, a brother and two sisters.
Terry's older sister, Michelle Terry-Balogh, told The Associated Press from Flat Rock, Mich., that her brother loved his job.
"It was his life," she said. "He said it was very dangerous, but he loved what he did and wanted to make a difference."