Slain ICE agent’s family, partner sue U.S., Mexico officials
Brownsville, TX, United States (4E) – The family of slain Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Jaime J. Zapata and his partner sued U.S. federal agencies and officials on Tuesday for alleged conspiracy, coverup and negligence that led to his death at the hands of suspected drug cartel members in Mexico in 2011.
The suit filed by Zapata’s parents and ICE agent Victor Avila before a U.S. district court in Brownsville named the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the former head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Mexican officials, U.S. gun dealers and gunrunners as defendants and sought unspecified damages from them. Among the defendants are former ATF Director Kenneth Melson, former Phoenix ATF Special Agent in Charge Bill Newell and former ATF Phoenix Group Leader David Voth.
Zapata was shot dead while Avila was seriously wounded by gunmen who attacked them while they were driving along a highway in the northern state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico on Feb. 15, 2011, according to the lawsuit. The origin of the rifles used in the shooting was later traced to a Dallas gun shop and that the ATF knew the gun users as part of an operation called “Fast and Furious” but did not arrest them.
In Fast and Furious, the ATF allowed suspected Mexican drug cartel members to purchase guns in the U.S. so they can be followed to their gang leaders in Mexico. Some 2,000 firearms were monitored under the operation but only 710 were recovered to date and no cartel leaders were ever arrested, the plaintiffs claimed.
Mary and Amador Zapata Jr. said their son would have been alive today had the ATF agents arrested the gunrunners when they had the opportunity.
The parents also complained that the U.S. embassy in Mexico City sent Zapata and Avila to San Luis Potosi to pick up a package despite a U.S. travel warning to Mexico, the known danger of passing the criminal gang-controlled Highway 57 in San Luis Potosi, and driving unescorted in a vehicle that has a faulty GPS.