Families of ICE agents ambushed in Mexico pleased with extradition, still angry
The families of the two Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who were gunned down in 2011, one fatally, said they are pleased to hear that the Mexican national suspected in the case, Jorge Costilla Sanchez, an alleged former leader of the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, has been extradited to the U.S.
Nearly five years after Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila were ambushed in northern Mexico, their loved ones are hopeful they may now get answers and some kind of justice.
“I am pleased that the government is continuing to extradite these criminals from Mexico,” Mary Zapata, Jaime’s mother, told Fox News Latino just hours after the extradition was made known on Wednesday night. “It brings some sort of justice for my son.”
“The wheels are turning,” she added. “I know it’s been a slow process; it’s been five years. Mexico is another country, a corrupt country.”
Her 32 year-old son was killed on the February 15, 2011 attack that took place on a highway in San Luis Potosi, approximately 400 miles south of McAllen, Texas. His partner Victor Avila was critically wounded.
The alleged drug kingpin charged with their attack is one of 13 Mexico agreed to extradite to the United States this week, a move was part of a new coordination effort between Mexico and the U.S. to fight organized crime.
Costilla Sanchez, alias “El Coss,” is the fifth man connected with the ambush of the ICE men to be put in U.S. custody. The other four were captured over the last years and are expected to be sentenced on November 23rd in Washington D.C.
While Zapata’s mother says the sentencing hearing will bring her family some sort of peace, they are still struggling to understand why her son and his partner were sent to drive down a stretch of Mexico’s Highway 57 to pick up equipment, when that highway was known to be patrolled and controlled by Zeta cartel members.
“I am not satisfied that they have not held responsible the supervisor that sent them on the assignment,” she told FNL. “They knew the dangers that were on this road. Why did they send them unaccompanied?”
At the time, the U.S. embassy had an official notice out warning its employees not to travel in that area. In fact, Zapata’s mother says Avila initially refused to take the road, but then decided to comply with orders.
In 2013, the Zapata and Avila families filed a civil lawsuit against the federal government alleging that negligence led to Zapata’s death and Avila’s near death.
Mary Zapata says her family is still in mourning, her youngest son battling depression. Meanwhile, the family continues to get pushed back by the federal government as they continue to file Freedom of Information Acts (FOIA) to find more answers as to what exactly happened that day and who else should be held responsible.
According to the lawsuit, at least three firearms recovered from the murder scene came from gun dealers in the United States, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) confirmed the weapons were indeed used to shoot Zapata and Avila.
Between 2006 and 2011 the bureau ran “Project Gunrunner” – under which operated the controversial “Fast and Furious” program – allowing licensed firearms dealers to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers in the hopes of tracking the guns back to Mexico’s drug cartel leaders.
Avila has not spoken to the press since the deadly ambush, but his sister Magdalena Avila Villalobos spoke with Fox News Latino and said extradition of another suspect to the secure hands of authorities in the United States is a good sign, considering the recent escape of El Chapo.
But, she said, she and her family are still battling the federal government in court.
“As we’ve gone through the investigation, it has been very difficult,” she said. “The government refuses to comply with the FOIA requests. It’s almost like working with one hand tied behind your back,” she noted.
She said her brother Victor is still recovering from the attack — just this week he had surgery on his shoulder from an injury sustained in the attack and has a bullet logged in his upper thigh that is inoperable. He is also battling PTSD.
Victor is married with two children. His wife and two kids were living in Mexico City at the time of the shooting and needed to be evacuated following the shooting.
“It has been a lot of healing for all of them,” Avila said. “They are moving forward, but it’s still a struggle for him. The sentencing in November should bring some type of closure.”
The AP contributed to this report.