The Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity, an organization of U.S. and Mexican activists, is promoting a bi-national dialogue on drug war violence.
A two-time cancer survivor and a mother of four, Shanda Zapata found herself faced with $800,000 in medical bills. So, she turned to a job few men would be brave enough to choose – she became a bounty hunter.
Zapata, 35, spends her days hunting down some of America’s most notorious bad guys. The self-professed “soccer mom,” hunts the likes of the Mexican cartel, child molesters, motorcycle gang members and child killers – all for 10 percent cut of an average $1 million bounties.
Working out of an office in Denver, Colorado, Zapata told Barcroft TV, she’s been shot at, lunged at with a knife, attacked by pit bulls and even had drug dealers throw needles at her.
Zapata, who is 5-foot-8, arms herself with an arsenal of weapons; including two assault rifles, a Smith & Wesson pistol, a Kevlar body vest, bear spray and military boots.
The blond crime-fighter is of Brazilian and Lithuanian descent, and she says she’s not afraid to show off her assets to lure a criminal into handcuffs.
In the Barcroft TV video, Zapata said, “Once in a while I get to dress up and meet somebody in a bar or a hotel and have a few drinks.”
"Then once they are outside we will take them down. It’s pretty satisfying."
“It’s tough being a woman in this job and you don’t want to show any weaknesses. You have to train ten times harder than the guys and you are constantly having to prove yourself,” she said. “When a suspect is cornered they will look for what they perceive to be the easiest way out - and that’s usually me. That means I have to be ready at all times.”
Zapata’s children, Syler, 17, Keeley, 11, Journey, 9 and Dominic, 5, go sometimes days without seeing their bail-recovering mom. But after fighting not one but two bouts of cancer, the family was left with medical bills her previous job as a waitress at Hooters could not come close to covering.
When Zapata was initially diagnosed with colon cancer at 19, she was covered under her mother’s health insurance. When the cancer returned 12 years later at 31, she was uninsured and the young mom was drowning in debt.
She is still a long way from paying off her bills, but is not quitting just yet. She is even looking at competing as an MMA fighter for cash prizes.
“I chose this job because I get to help people and sort of be a bad ass,” she said.
“When I put a child molester away, it feels great. It makes me feel that bit stronger that I can do this for my community.
“I make me feel that while, yes, I am female – I am strong. I am capable,” she said. “And I can put dangerous people away."