A lonely Texas road, a dead border patrol officer. Trump cried murder – but was it?

When Rogelio Martinez and a colleague were found with head injuries by the roadside politicians rushed to say it underlined the need for border security

Interstate 10 passes through west Texas. The FBI is investigating a ‘potential assault’ but the local sheriff believes Rogelio Martinez’s death nearby may have another explanation. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

Two weeks after two US border patrol agents were found with head injuries by a drainage channel next to a freeway in remote west Texas, how one of them died remains a mystery.

At least, the late-night incident in which 36-year-old Rogelio Martinez died is a puzzle to the FBI, which is investigating.

To Donald Trump and two prominent Texas Republicans, Governor Greg Abbott and US senator Ted Cruz, the cause of death was immediately clear: murder.

“Border Patrol Officer killed at Southern Border, another badly hurt,” Trump tweeted on 19 November, the day after the agents were hurt. “We will seek out and bring to justice those responsible. We will, and must, build the Wall!”

In remarks the following day, Trump described the surviving officer as having been “brutally beaten”.

Abbott authorised a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the “murder”.

On 19 November, within a few hours of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announcing that Martinez had died in hospital after “responding to activity while on patrol”, Cruz issued a statement in which he said the agents had been “attacked”.

The senator also said the incident was “a stark reminder of the ongoing threat that an unsecure border poses to the safety of our communities and those charged with defending them”.

It did not escape the notice of some of Cruz’s online critics that earlier in November he visited Sutherland Springs, the day after 25 churchgoers were shot dead there. The senator told a reporter asking about gun control that “it is an unfortunate thing that the immediate place the media goes after any tragedy, after any murder, is politicizing it”.

Spokespeople for Cruz and Abbott did not immediately respond when asked how they determined that Martinez was murdered and whether this was still what they thought.

Border patrol pallbearers carry agent Rogelio Martinez to a graveside service at Restlawn Cemetery on 25 November in El Paso, Texas. Photograph: Mark Lambie/AP

Border Patrol union representatives have told reporters they are convinced it…

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