SIERRA VISTA, Ariz — Green-clad Border Patrol agents stood vigil outside the southwestern-style home of their fallen colleague Nick Ivie Wednesday as the agent's wife and family tried to come to grips with his passing.
Asked how long he intended to stay one replied, "As long as they want me to be here."
Two suspects were detained and later arrested in Mexico in connection with the death of Ivie, a former Provo resident, according to Mexican officials quoted by the Reuters news agency. But few other details were released on a day when members of this small border-area town rallied to the aid of a grieving family.
Friends and neighbors were here in support of his wife, Christy and their two young daughters. They along with members of the family's LDS Church ward provided meals and beds for relatives who arrived to grieve. President Barack Obama expressed his condolences in a call to Christy Ivie on Tuesday night.
"This is a very difficult time for her," said Sierra Vista LDS Stake President Kevin Goates, who is serving as the family spokesman.
"I don't think she's fully absorbed everything that has taken place. There are immediate needs that she's looking after, realizing there are many plans to be made in the future. I think those things will probably sink in over time."
Funeral services are tentatively scheduled in Sierra Vista Monday and in Utah in Spanish Fork next Thursday, Goates said. The Border Patrol, which held a processional Wednesday to transport Ivie's body to a funeral home, is also planning a memorial service following the funeral.
The family was scheduled to hold a news conference Thursday morning at Cochise College in Sierra Vista. Goates said they want to share their experiences with Ivie and talk about the kind of man he was.
Memorial funds have been established at Zions Bank in Utah and the National Bank of Arizona in the agent's name.
Ivie was shot and killed early Tuesday morning while patrolling a rugged hilly area near Bisbee, about 100 miles south of Tucson, on horseback. He and two other agents were fired upon about five miles north of the border as they responded to an alarm that was triggered on one of the sensors that the government has installed along the border.
Authorities have declined to provide other details, including what they believe prompted the shooting and whether the agents were ambushed. Still, they suspect that more than one person fired on the agents. The area is heavily used by drug smugglers and offers many hiding places and is close enough to Mexico for them to make a quick getaway in the sparsely populated southwestern Arizona desert.
Citing a Mexican Army officer who declined to be named, Reuters reported that Mexican troops arrested two men in a military operation in the city of Agua Prieta, in Mexico's northern Sonora state, a few miles from the spot where Ivie was killed.
Family members are doing as well as to be expected under the circumstances, Goates said.
"They're grieving the loss of a very special person in their lives. But they have a faith that they're an eternal family and that they will have the chance to be together again. That faith gives them hope and gives them strength," he said.
Border Patrol agent Aaron Kerr broke down in tears while talking about his friend outside the Ivies' tan stucco home where several white and green Border Patrol trucks were parked. Kerr and Ivie attended the Border Patrol academy together and transferred to Arizona at the same time. They even live in the same neighborhood and were LDS Church home teaching companions.
"He was quiet and mild mannered, but had a heart of gold," he said. "Nick would never say anything bad about anyone."
Kerr said he would often see Ivie walking his girls to the Holiday Community Center swimming pool, where a giant American now flag flies half staff.
"He was the best dad that you could ever be. He was always with his two daughters," he said.
Kerr also described Ivie as an exceptional husband.
Nick and Christy Ivie grew up in Utah. They met in Spanish Fork after serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, he in Mexico City and she in Berlin, Germany. His older brother Joel, also a Border Patrol agent steered him toward the agency where has worked since January 2008.
Goates recounted how family members traced the last few days of Ivie's life, which true to form included time not only with his daughters but other people's children as well.
"What happened really gives the measure of the man," Goates said.
Ivie arrived home around 5 a.m. Sunday after an overnight shift on the border. He showered before heading out for church meetings starting at 8 a.m. He spent the day attending to church duties, including sharing his faith in Jesus Christ during Sacrament meeting, before going back on shift at 6 p.m.
"He never said anything to anybody about his schedule, about being tired, about asking for a break," Goates said. "The bishop said, 'Had I only known. I would have done something different.' But Nick didn't make an issue out of that."
On Monday, he went to his wife's community league soccer practice where his daughters and other players' children had accompanied their mothers. He gathered them together and played with them.
"You hear these stories and you realize what kind of many Nick Ivie was," Goates said, his eyes welling with tears. "I hope I can be more like him."
Contributing: Associated Press