The Murder of ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata Goes Unsolved

By Cindy Casares

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the mysterious murder of ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata, a Brownsville native, who was gunned down on a stretch of highway in central Mexico on February 15, 2011. He was allegedly killed by members of Los Zetas drug cartel in a case of mistaken identity. The federal government has yet to make public key details about the case, like why Zapata and his partner Victor Avila of El Paso were sent alone down a notorious stretch of highway known for gang activity when they could have flown or traveled with an armed escort of Mexican military or police. (Avila was shot, but not killed in the ensuing ambush.) Because grand jury testimony in the case against suspected Zeta member Julian Zapata Espinoza was “accidentally taped over” by a court reporter, we may never know the truth.

At a hearing before the House’s Homeland Security Committee this week, Rep. Michael McCaul, (R-Austin), grilled Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano over rumors that Jaime Zapata may have been killed with weapons that entered Mexico through the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ botched gun- walking Operation Fast & Furious. The unauthorized operation was responsible for hundreds of guns making their way across the border into Mexico with at least one weapon being found at the murder scene of slain U.S. Border Patrolman Brian Terry in Arizona.

“Madame Secretary, there’s been some speculation that the weapons used to kill Agent Zapata may have been linked to the Operation Fast & Furious. Do you have any information that would indicate there’s a connection there?” McCaul asked.

“I have no information to that effect, no. I don’t know one way or the other,” Napolitano said before eventually becoming annoyed that what was supposed to be a hearing on President Obama’s 2013 proposed budget for the Department of Homeland Security had been hijacked by McCaul to find out more about Fast & Furious and its possible connection to Zapata’s death.

Napolitano placed the responsibility for any and all information regarding the Fast & Furious case squarely on the ATF, later telling U.S Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) that she has not even spoken to Attorney General Eric Holder about it despite the fact that it’s been designated an interagency case. She is also unaware, she says, to what extent her ICE agents were informed of Operation Fast & Furious or to what extent they’ve participated in the ensuing investigation.

Meanwhile, at a church in Brownsville, Texas, Mary Zapata-Muñoz and her husband, Amador Zapata Jr., were no closer to an answer about why their 32-year-old son was killed.

“If we had known the situation, we wouldn’t have let him go,” Amador Zapata said in an interview with The Brownsville Herald. As the Zapatas crossed themselves at a mass to mark the anniversary of their son’s death, ICE Director John Morton and more than 30 uniformed officers from the Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol along with top officials from all levels of government sat in the pews.

“I have nightmares of his last moments, what it must have been like. Being in a foreign country, not to hurt anybody. He must have thought ‘what’s going on?’ ‘What are these people doing?’ How did they take his life? Can you imagine what it must have been like? What he must have gone through?” Zapata-Muñoz said.

Zapata’s mother, who has spoken before of her fears that a cover up could be underway, repeated her resolve this week to ensure that everyone responsible for her son’s death is brought to justice. Then she recited an adage about how the person giving the order is as responsible as the one executing it.

It remains to be seen, however, if the person who gave these orders will pay.

[Photo by D.C.Atty]

Subscribe today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Must Read

How a harsh criticism turned ‘Coco’ into Pixar’s most uniquely made movie yet

Victor Landa November 17, 2017

Director Lee Unkrich was hot off the box office success and Oscar win for 2010’s “Toy Story 3” when he delved into making a movie that focused on the Mexican […]

Trump Administration Targets and then Mocks Immigrant with Prosthetic Leg

Victor Landa November 15, 2017

A 20-year-old undocumented immigrant with prosthetic leg and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status has been detained by federal immigration agents and held without charges for over a month, treated inhumanely […]

More Latinas are becoming teachers and reshaping our nation’s classrooms

Victor Landa November 29, 2017

The growth of the Latino population in the United States will have a lasting cultural and intellectual impact beyond the arts, food, and celebrations. More and more, Latinas are becoming […]

As Numbers Grow, Recognizing Generations Of Latino Veterans

Victor Landa November 10, 2017

As the nation honors its veterans, government officials point to the growing numbers of Latinos in the military, while Hispanic scholars and historians remind us of the generations of Latino […]

U.S Hispanic Chamber Leader Who Has Had Turbulent Relationship With Trump May Be Ousted

Victor Landa November 22, 2017

The US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) is moving behind the scenes to oust its prominent president Javier Palomarez over allegations that he misused the organization’s money for his personal […]

How Indie Latinx Comic Book Authors Are Capturing the Latinx Experience

Victor Landa November 13, 2017

Back in 2010, comics creator Javier Hernandez was walking around San Francisco with his friend Ricardo Padilla when he had an idea: Why don’t they build a comics convention focusing […]

Half of Latino Immigrant Characters on TV Are Portrayed as Criminals, Study Finds

Victor Landa November 1, 2017

Define American, the immigration nonprofit founded by Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, has released its first-ever media reference guide for writers, directors, and producers concerning Latino immigrant characters. Immigrants and […]

Could Hispanic vote push Lupe Valdez into Texas Governor’s Office?

Victor Landa December 8, 2017

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez is running as a Democratic candidate for Texas Governor after a year of speaking out on big state issues– particularly the controversial sanctuary cities ban. Experts says […]