While waiting to attend a training session at the Border Patrol Academy, which was scheduled to commence in December, Patrol Inspector (Trainee) James M. Kirchner and other new appointees were assigned to work with older and more experienced officers in and around El Paso. Trainee Kirchner had been assigned to a variety of duties between November 4 and November 14.
On November 15, 1954, Trainee Kirchner was assigned to work the 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. shift with Patrol Inspector James W. Dove. They were delayed in leaving the office due to other work that Inspector Dove had to complete and it was about 4:00 p.m. when they left the office. They patrolled west of El Paso on Highway 80 for some distance and, reaching the end of their route, they turned around and started back toward Sector Headquarters. When they arrived opposite a mountain known as Mt. Christo Rey, Trainee Kirchner saw three persons coming from the direction of Mexico. The persons were up in the hills and estimated to be about 1/2 mile away. Trainee Kirchner informed Inspector Dove, who was driving, and the latter immediately turned toward the mountain and parked the vehicle. Inspector Dove and Trainee Kirchner then proceeded on foot, with Inspector Dove instructing Trainee Kirchner to go east up the mountain and to keep the suspects under surveillance and he would travel in a westerly direction and through a tunnel under the railway track in order to head off the suspects if they turned into the valley. Trainee Kirchner obeyed orders and hurried off in the direction of the mountain.
Inspector Dove intercepted the three suspects and determined that they were of Mexican extraction and were citizens of the United States. While the suspects were being questioned, Trainee Kirchner was observed near the top and was instructed, through hand signals, to return. During the descent, Trainee Kirchner was out of the view of Inspector Dove. When Trainee Kirchner did not return in a reasonable time and did not respond to being called, Inspector Dove and the three citizens began searching for him. Inspector Dove found Trainee Kirchner slumped to the ground, face forward. After a hurried examination, Inspector Dove applied artificial respiration in an effort to revive Trainee Kirchner, but was unsuccessful. Leaving one of the citizens with the body, Inspector Dove went to the McNutt Oil Refinery and called Border Patrol Headquarters. He then returned to the scene and waited until Trainee Kirchner's body was removed. It was determined that Trainee Kirchner died of a heart attack.