Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Los Zetas killer charged in death of U.S. immigration agent is extradited by Mexico
Julián Espinoza, alleged to be an operative of the powerful Los Zetas, was handed over to U.S. authorities in Veracruz, to answer warrants issued by a federal district court in the District of Columbia after the February 15, 2011 murder of ICE agent Jaime Zapata (pictured). Another federal agent, Víctor Ávila, was wounded in the same attack, which occurred in Mexico's San Luis Potosí state. Espinoza faces U.S. charges of murder of a federal agent, attempted murder of a federal agent and attempted murder of an agent while on international duty. Espinoza, who was arrested soon after the events, litigated in Mexican courts in an effort to prevent his extradition, but lost his final legal battle recently and was turned over to the FBI. He is expected to appear before the Washington, D.C. court this week for a detention hearing.
Agent Jaime Zapata was 32 at the time of his death, and had worked with ICE's Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit and on the Border Enforcement Security Task Force. On the day of the attack Zapata and his partner Ávila were on official business, traveling from Laredo, Texas to Mexico City. They were in a government vehicle carrying U.S. diplomatic tags. The men were unarmed, in accord with Mexican law. As they passed through the north central state of San Luis Potosí, on a major four lane highway from Monterrey to Mexico City, two vehicles began following them and forced them off the road. According to Ávila, as many as 15 men dressed in military uniforms and carrying assault weapons circled their car. Zapata rolled down his window to confirm that they were federal agents, and the men began firing at point blank range. The assailants fled immediately.
Badly wounded, Ávila managed to get off a cell phone call. Zapata attempted to drive away from the scene, but soon collapsed at the wheel. Mexican federal police arrived by helicopter in minutes, but it was too late for Zapata. He died before reaching the hospital. The attack occurred near a fake military checkpoint which the gunmen had set up.
Subsequent investigation revealed that Zapata was killed by AK-47 fire -- the weapon of choice for most drug cartels, and referred to here as cuernos de chivo, or goat horns. The gun had been purchased by one Otilio Osorio in Dallas, Texas. Osorio is allegedly known to Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm (ATF) agents as a straw purchaser for drug cartels, who has entered U.S. territory to buy military grade weapons for transportation back to Mexico. Although the particular gun used to murder ICE agent Zapata had not been sold under the ATF's Wide Receiver program (2006-2007), or during the subsequent DEA Fast and Furious operation (2009-2010), the brazen daylight attack on two unarmed U.S. agents further fanned the flames of congressional ire when both were publicly disclosed this year.
The murder of Jaime Zapata while inside Mexico is one of the very few instances of a U.S. agent killed in the line of duty in this country.
Update Feb. 2012: U.S. ICE agent died needlessly, due to faulty door lock design: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/02/rolling-down-mexican-highway-57-door.html.
Mexico has "lost trust" in U.S. after secret gun sales, money laundering: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/12/congressman-says-mexico-has-lost-trust.html.
Fast and Furious; Wide Receiver:
and: ; http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/10/obama-will-stand-by-his-man-even-though.html.
at 2:04 PM