Special Agent Jaime Zapata killed, Special Agent Victor Avila wounded
ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata was killed Tuesday, February 15 when gunmen fired on the diplomatic plate SUV he was riding in an apparent ambushed at a fake roadblock. LAT reported that Zapata and another agent, Victor Avila who was wounded in the gunfire but survived the attack were driving from Mexico City toward the northern city of Monterrey when they were attacked in the state of San Luis Potosi.
LAT also says that U.S. Immigration and Customs officials said Wednesday that Zapata was a native of Brownsville, Texas, and four-year veteran of the department on loan from the Laredo, Texas, ICE office. He and the Agent Avila were attached temporarily to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
Here is a statement from DHS Secretary Napolitano on February 15, 2011:
“I’m deeply saddened by the news that earlier today, two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents assigned to the ICE Attaché office in Mexico City were shot in the line of duty while driving between Mexico City and Monterrey by unknown assailants.
One agent was critically wounded in this attack and died from his injuries. The second agent was shot in the leg and remains in stable condition.
U.S. law enforcement agencies are working closely with Mexican authorities who are investigating the shooting to ensure the perpetrators of this unconscionable crime are captured as quickly as possible.
Let me be clear: any act of violence against our ICE personnel – or any DHS personnel – is an attack against all those who serve our nation and put their lives at risk for our safety. The full resources of our Department are at the disposal of our Mexican partners in this investigation. We remain committed in our broader support for Mexico’s efforts to combat violence within its borders.
I ask that you join me in praying for our fallen and wounded colleagues. Please keep them, and all our DHS personnel serving abroad or in harm’s way, in your thoughts.”
On February 16, Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder also decided to establish a joint task force between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice “to work with Mexico in tracking down the perpetrators and swiftly bring them to justice.” The joint task force will be led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“This joint task force reflects our commitment to bring the investigatory and prosecutorial power of the U.S. Government to bear as we work with the Mexican Government to bring these criminals to justice,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the ICE agents’ families and loved ones, as we are reminded of the risks and sacrifices undertaken every day by the men and women on the frontlines in protecting the safety and security of the American people.”
“The murder of Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the shooting of another ICE agent provide a sad reminder of the dangers American law enforcement officers face every day,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. “Working with our Mexican counterparts, we have already launched an aggressive investigation, and this joint task force will ensure that every available resource is used to bring the perpetrators of this terrible crime to justice.”
The LAT adds that ICE has between 25 and 30 agents in Mexico. Agents also have worked with the government to train Mexicans in advanced investigative techniques used in customs and smuggling investigations.
We’re not going to hear that these men were victims of a random act of violence and were not targeted, are we?
Updated 2/17 @11:28 pm
On February 17, US Consulate General Monterrey issued the following Warden Message:
On February 15, one U.S. government employee was murdered and another seriously wounded in an attack while traveling in a U.S. government vehicle on Mexican Highway 57 near Santa Maria del Rio, San Luis Potosi. The Mexican government has assured the U.S. Embassy that all necessary actions to bring the perpetrators of this heinous act to justice will be taken.
American citizens residing in, visiting, or traveling through the geographic area bordered by, and including, the central Mexican cities of San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Leon, Guanajuato, Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende should maintain a heightened sense of alert while the Mexican government investigation into this incident continues. Americans in this area should monitor local news and information to stay informed about situations that could affect their security.
The U.S. Mission has instructed its employees and their families to defer travel to the State of San Luis Potosi, effective immediately. U.S. citizens should defer unnecessary travel to the State.
The most recent data available from state.gov indicates that of the 18 US posts in Mexico, the following six have been designated danger pay posts:
Ciudad Juarez 20%
Nuevo Laredo 15%
The danger pay allowance is designed to provide additional compensation above basic compensation to all U.S. Government civilian employees, including Chiefs of Mission, for service at places in foreign areas where there exist conditions of civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism or wartime conditions which threaten physical harm or imminent danger to the health or well-being of an employee. These conditions do not include acts characterized chiefly as economic crime.