According to a new inspector general report an illegal gun trafficking program similar to Operation Fast and Furious, which took place under President Obama's Department of Justice, led to the murder of ICE Agent Jaime Zapata in 2011.
First, the background:
On February 15, 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agents Victor Avila and Jaime Zapata were returning to Mexico City from Matehuala, Mexico when their armored SUV came under attack near the town of Santa Maria del Rio, approximately 200 miles north of Mexico City. Both agents were on assignment from ICE to duties in Mexico, and their SUV displayed diplomatic license plates.
After passing through a toll booth on Mexican Route 57 in the early afternoon, the agents noticed that two vehicles were following them, one of which passed and blocked the agents' SUV from the front, forcing it to stop. Approximately eight assailants approached the SUV armed with various firearms, including assault weapons (AK-47s and AR-1Ss) and handguns. Two of the assailants were able to gain access to the interior of the SUV through a partially open window and shot Agent Avila in the leg and shot Agent Zapata multiple times. The other assailants also opened fire on the SUV. Both agents later were transported by helicopter to a hospital. Agent Zapata died from his injuries. Agent Avila was seriously wounded but survived.
And the conclusion:
On February 15, 2011, members of the Los Zetas drug cartel attacked Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agents Victor Avila and Jaime Zapata on a highway approximately 200 miles North of Mexico City, killing Agent Zapata and seriously injuring Agent Avila. Traces of two firearms used in the assault revealed that Otilio Osorio purchased one of the weapons at the Dallas Fort Worth Gun Show on October 10, 2010 (Osorio Firearm), and that Robert Riendfliesh purchased the other at a pawnshop in Beaumont, Texas on August 20, 2010 (Riendfliesh Firearm). Osorio and Riendfliesh were arrested along with Osorio's brother, Ranferi, and a neighbor, Kelvin Morrison, shortly after ATF completed traces of the firearms on February 25, 2011.
Our review examined the information that the ATF, DEA, FBI, and DOJ obtained about the Osorios, Morrison, and Riendfliesh prior to the Zetas attack on the ICE agents, and whether agents failed to seize firearms destined for Mexico. We also examined the circumstances surrounding the release of Manuel Barba from federal custody in Beaumont, Texas in July 2010 following his arrest for narcotics offenses. Barba led a ring of firearms "straw purchasers"- the "Baytown Crew" -and trafficked the Riendfliesh Firearm to Mexico following his release.
Our conclusions are highly critical of performance failures of a DEA line agent and an AUSA in Beaumont regarding their handling of Barba, and of an ATF group supervisor in Dallas regarding the Osorios and Morrison.
We believe that the recommendations contained in our report on Operation Fast and Furious and in our recent report on the implementation of recommendations from that report are sufficient to address the deficiencies we identified here. 121 As all of these reviews demonstrate, the stakes for law enforcement in these high risk situations are significant, and the possibility of tragic consequences for failure to respond to them appropriately is all too real.
Essentially DEA and ATF, overseen by DOJ, failed to properly arrest known straw purchasers, failed to stop repeated illegal gun purchases and did nothing to stop trafficking of guns to narco-terrorists in Mexico. Based on the report and tactics used under Fast and Furious to purposely allow thousands of guns to flow into Mexico after straw purchases, the same conclusion can be reached the same was done this case. The results were deadly.
“I began asking questions about the shady operations of the ATF and its gunwalking operations more than six years ago. Congress is still in litigation regarding Fast and Furious to understand the full extent of what happened and how the Obama administration attempted to avoid congressional oversight, and now four and a half years after my request for an IG investigation we’re finally learning more from the Inspector General about another botched operation," Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, who has been heavily investigating Obama's Department of Justice for illegal gun trafficking for years, released in a statement. "Sadly, the information provided by whistleblowers appears to be proven true once again. ATF did indeed fail to seize illegal firearms that later turned up at a crime scene in Mexico, trafficked by the same suspects who had previously sold two firearms used in the February 15, 2011, attack on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Mexico. The circumstances look all too familiar and seem to be part of a pattern of recklessness that failed to recognize the consequences of allowing firearms to get in the hands of the cartels.”
In December 2010, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered in the Arizona desert. The guns left at the crime scene were from Operation Fast and Furious.
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