Is the death of Border Patrol agent Nicholas Ivie the result of friendly fire, as the government claims, or a shootout with illegal drug runners, and covered up by the Obama White House, just days before the 2012 Election?
This is all about a case from October 2, 2012, when Border Patrol agents were approaching a hilltop south of Bisbee.
"On that night, an electronic sensor went off two or three miles south of the border, in the area of Paul Spur," said rancher Ed Ashurst. "Three Border Patrol agents responded to the scene."
One of the agents approaching from the north of the hilltop was Ivie.
"When he got to the top of that hill, he was in communication via radio with the other two agents," said Ashurst.
The time: 0100hrs (1:00 a.m.), and there was a full moon. The two agents who approached from the south of the hilltop signaled Ivie with their flashlights. Ivie signaled back.
"All of a sudden, gunfire erupted," said Ashurst. In the result of that Nick Ivie the agent walking in from the North lost his life."
Ashurst, one of the area's best known cattleman, is also an author. He retold the death of Ivie, as a part of his latest book, Alligators In The Moat.
Two days after the shooting, Janet Napolitano, then serving as the Secretary of Homeland Security, along with former Border Patrol Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar, visited Ivie's family in Sierra Vista.
"They were at Nick Ivie's door in less than 48 hours, telling his widow that Nick Ivie was a great guy, a wonderful guy. We're so sorry for your loss, but basically he was an amateur, a rookie, a moron who shot at a shadow for no reason," said Ashurst, who doesn't buy the government's explanation of Ivie's death. Ashurst and many others believe the Border Patrol agents stumbled upon a drug smuggling operation, and it was the smugglers who opened fire first.
"The truth is there were outlaws shooting at him," said Ashurst.
The Government has never released an official report into the incident, but did tell family members that Ivie opened fire on his two fellow Border Patrol agents who were approaching the same hill. The government said it was a case of friendly fire, claiming there was no one else on the mountain that night.
"It doesn't matter to me if a Border Patrol agent killed him," said Ashurst. "What matters is that Nick Ivie's wife and brothers and children were told by Napolitano and Aguilar that Nick opened fire with a firearm for absolutely no reason."
Ashurst bases his claims on a narrative from the Cochise County Sheriff's Office, where a Sheriff's Sergeant writes he was witness to the interrogation of a female Border Patrol agent who was there that night.
"She heard multiple voices," said Ashurst. "Spanish-speaking individuals, and she saw several bodies, three or four walking south toward Mexico."
The sergeant also reported seeing blood drops indicating that the source was moving down the hill, toward Mexico. Fresh blood was also found on three plastic drink bottles, and other items consistent with a smuggling route bed down area.
"There were outlaws here. There was gunfire from outlaws, and Nick Ivie was involved with a gunfire with outlaws who were armed with firearms," said Ashurst.
Mark Dannels is the Cochise County Sheriff. While he was not the Sheriff during the time of the incident, he knows about the Ivie case, and said the reports filed by his department are reliable.
FOX 10 Phoenix has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for any report or comment on the Ivie investigation, and the department has yet to respond. A Border Patrol agent, however, did speak to FOX 10 Phoenix off-camera. He said the agents were "talking on their radios, and using their flashlights.", and that Ivie had no reason to "get his hair up and open fire".
The agent also said Ivie was an "experienced, cool headed officer".
Dave Shapiro, a Bisbee attorney, sat in on the conversation with the Border Patrol agent, and was impressed with the agent's knowledge of the situation.
"He obviously is quite knowledgeable," said Shapiro. "He knew Nick Ivie. He knows the tactics that are used."
Ashurst and others believe the government has kept the truth about Ivie's death under wraps, due to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. At the time, the incident sparked a scandal over White House attempts to blame it on a spontaneous demonstration.
"Obama did not need another scandal," said Ashurst.
In addition, the death of a Federal agent in Arizona, just weeks before the election, went against claims made by the administration that the border was secure.
"The whole thing just stinks like a fish," said Ashurst.
Whether or not Ivie was killed by friendly fire in an accidental shooting with two other Border Patrol agents, or was killed as part of a larger shootout involving Mexican drug smugglers, the truth may never be known, unless the Federal officers who investigated the case come forward with answers.
"That is the thing that really disgusted me is how the Federal Government, at the highest level, will take an individual who is trying to serve his country in an honorable way, doing his job at a very high scale of professionalism - they make him look like an idiot," said Ashurst. "They put him in his grave, telling lies. They will not tell the truth for the simple reason they want to save their butt and promote their political agenda, whatever that might be."
FOX 10 Phoenix has also reached out to Janet Napolitano and David Aguilar, but they have yet to respond. Meanwhile, the two Border Patrol agents involved in the Ivie shooting were both reassigned, within days after the shooting.
Their names have never been released, and they have never talked to the media about what happened that night.