By SHARON McNARY
Officer Down: Agent Richard Goldstein
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The death of a Border Patrol agent in the Coachella Canal remains under investigation but was likely an accidental drowning, Border Patrol spokesman David Kim said Sunday.
The body of Agent Richard Goldstein, 37, was found Friday floating in the canal near Niland, east of the Salton Sea and about 40 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, said Kim, a supervisory agent in the El Centro Sector of the Border Patrol.
"At this point it doesn't appear initially that there's anything other than an accident that occurred," Kim said, describing Goldstein as a hero.
"He was on the front lines of securing the American border."
Border Patrol agents monitor the canal, which runs north to south, because smugglers of drugs and people often drive on its narrow banks to bypass an immigration checkpoint on Highway 111, several miles north of Niland, Kim said.
Authorities began a search for Goldstein soon after they realized he was away from his K-9 patrol vehicle.
They found his dog near the idling vehicle, and Goldstein in the canal water.
A search by California Highway Patrol and Border Patrol helicopters did not locate other vehicles that might have been involved in the incident, Kim said.
Although he did not have statistics available, Kim said agents face an increasing amount of violence from smugglers, "mostly assaults, whether they are immigrants or drug smugglers, throwing rocks, sticks, even shooting paint balls."
Last week a smuggler fired about 20 paint-ball rounds at agents monitoring the New River near Calexico, Kim said.
Services for Goldstein had not been scheduled, said Agent Enrique Lozano, a spokesman for the Border Patrol's El Centro Sector.
Goldstein lived in the Coachella Valley and is survived by his wife and two children.
Copyright 2007 Press-Enterprise
Border patrol agent found dead in Calif.