It’s been a year since Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agent Jamie Zapata was killed in Mexico. This somber day is a reminder that Mexico remains a dangerous country for American law enforcement officers who serve south of the border.
The heavily armed-drug cartels continue to operate freely in Mexico, while U.S. agents are still forced to investigate cartel activity without any firearms- in other words, it's business as usual.
One year ago Special Agent Zapata was traveling along a major highway in Mexico when his suburban was boxed-in by alleged cartel members, forced to the median where he lowered his window slightly to identify himself as an ICE agent, and was ultimately killed when the cartel opened fire leaving behind some 90 rounds of AK-47 bullets.
Several alleged killers have been arrested, and one, Julian Zapata Espinoza aka “Piolin” or “Tweety,” has been extradited to the U.S. to face murder charges.
While “Tweety” awaits trial, ICE headquarters released a statement regarding Agent Zapata’s death. The agency explained the loss has touched all who knew Mr. Zapata, but they also wanted to remember how courageous and honorable he was.
It’s widely believed by agents and law enforcement agencies that Zapata was killed with a gun from the botched ATF Fast and Furious program. Mexican officials have already confirmed the gunwalking operation has killed hundreds of Mexican nationals, but the U.S. hasn’t said a Fast and Furious gun killed Zapata.
"He was the type of person who wanted to contribute something significant to this world," said ICE Director John Morton.
ICE headquarters said Zapata joined the agency in 2006 and was assigned to the Deputy Assistant HSI office in Laredo, Texas, where he served on the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit, as well as the Border Enforcement Security Task Force.
“He was detailed to ICE's attaché office at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City at the time of the tragedy. By extending his service across the border, SA Zapata put his life on the line to keep this country safe,” a statement read. “Having lived and worked along the Southwest border, Zapata was familiar with the challenges of being a law enforcement officer in that area.”
The ultimate sacrifice Agent Zapata made for America has not been forgotten. During National Police Week in May 2011, ICE honored SA Zapata's life and legacy with a plaque on the ICE Wall of Honor.
His hometown in Texas also honored Zapata in April 2011, when they renamed a street after him. “This street, close to his parents' home, was named Jamie J. Zapata Avenue. Zapata's family was the first to drive on it.”
ICE also said other memorials for Zapata include a criminal justice training facility named after him at Kaplan College in McAllen, Texas; a resolution passed in the Texas Senate in his honor; and federal law enforcement legislation sponsored in his name.
Director Morton said he would be spending the day with Zapata's family in Texas.
"No one will ever be able to replace Jaime," said Morton. "He lives on in all of us. He inspired each of us on a personal level to be the best we can be – as a son or daughter, brother or sister, a public servant, or any other role."
Among those who are remembering Agent Zapata are the retired Border Patrol Agents at NAFBPO. “As a retired Border Patrol Agent, I pray there is justice for both Jaime Zapata and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, both killed because of Fast and Furious. Those responsible must be held accountable. Honor First,” Alan Ferguson of NAFBPO concluded.
While it is right to honor the fallen ICE agent, one must wonder why the same treatment has not found its way to murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who died after a shootout in Arizona by a drug smuggler using a Fast and Furious ATF gun?
Rest in peace...agents... rest in peace.
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