An Arizona border sheriff says two suspects may already be in custody after the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent along the Mexican border early Tuesday morning.

Nicholas Ivie portrait

Photo: U.S. Border Patrol

Nicholas Ivie

Two Border Patrol agents were shot while on patrol near Bisbee. Agent Nicholas Ivie, 30, was killed. The second agent sustained non-life-threatening wounds and was airlifted to a Tucson hospital. The unidentified agent was released from the hospital Wednesday morning, the Border Patrol said.

Acting Cochise County Sheriff Rod Rothrock said two suspects may have already been arrested and in custody in Mexico. He said he does not know who made the arrest, U.S. agents or Mexican agents.

"It’s my understanding that Border Patrol air assets spotted the suspects in Mexico and the suspects were subsequently apprehended, but I don’t know the specifics of how that all came about," Rothrock said.

Federal authorities would not confirm the arrests.

"I’m not going to talk any further about those issues. It’s way too early and I don’t want to prejudice anything that either us or the military in Mexico or the Mexican government is working on right now," said James Turgal, the FBI's Arizona director.

George McCubbin, president of the National Border Patrol Council, told the Associated Press a third agent was also on patrol with the two agents who were shot, but was unharmed.

The shooting occurred at about 1:50 a.m. after an alarm was triggered on one of the many sensors along the border and the three agents went to investigate, said Cochise County Sheriff's spokeswoman Carol Capas.

The shooting scene is about five miles north of the Mexican border, in an area of rugged mountain terrain. This area of Cochise County has long been recognized as a corridor for drug smuggling even as the number of illegal immigrants trying to cross in the area has dropped in recent years.

Ivie was 30 years old. He joined the Border Patrol in 2008. He was a native of Provo, Utah, and lived with his wife and their two daughters in Sierra Vista.

Jeff Self, the Customs and Border Protection’s joint field commander, was visibly choked up as he read a prepared statement in a press conference on Tuesday.

“Many of the CBP family received this call at 2 a.m. this morning. It’s been a long day for us. But it’s been longer for no one more than a wife whose husband is not coming home," Self said.

The agents involved in the shooting were assigned to the Border Patrol station in Bisbee, about 100 miles southeast of Tucson.

The station, until recently known as the Naco Station, was renamed the Brian Terry Station as a memorial to the most recent Border Patrol agent killed in the line of duty.

Authorities are still searching for three suspects in that case.