Published February 22, 2011
An estimated 1,000 mourners joined the family of Jaime Zapata to say goodbye to the man who gave his life fighting to keep drugs and undocumented immigrants from entering into the United States.
Zapata, 32, was working as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi last week when suspected drug cartel members ran his armored SUV off the road. Zapata was shot three times. His colleague, Victor Avila, was shot twice in the leg and survived the ambush.
San Luis Potosi borders two northern Mexican states where the Zetas and the rival Gulf Cartel have waged bloody battles over territory. Zapata and Avila were temporarily detailed to the ICE attache office in Mexico City and were driving from the northern city of Monterrey to the Mexican capital at the time of the attack.
“We will not relent or flinch or let up in any way in our determination to see those responsible for his death are held to account for their crimes, ” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the standing room only crowd inside the Brownsville Event Center. “Nor will we tolerate violence against our federal agents or our border communities.”
Authorities in Mexico are leading the murder investigation and officials in the United States have offered to assist. So far no one has been arrested.
“Together, the United States and Mexico will bring the long, hard arm of the law down on Jaime and Victor’s shooters, ” ICE director John Morton said. “Together we will look after our people. Together we will continue Jaime and Victor’s work to see that the rule of law triumphs over lawlessness and empty violence. There is no other way.”
Zapata grew up in Brownsville, along the Texas/Mexico border, and followed his father’s footsteps into law enforcement. After graduating from the University of Texas at Brownsville with a degree in criminal justice, he began his career with the Border Patrol in Yuma, Ariz. He came back to Texas in 2003, as a special agent assigned to the Laredo office for ICE.