U.S., Mexico Hunt Killers of ICE Special Agent

Jerry Seper, Washington Times, February 16, 2011

U.S. law enforcement agencies are working closely with Mexican authorities in an investigation into the shooting Tuesday afternoon of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent killed when he and his partner were attacked by unknown assailants on a highway 230 miles north of Mexico City.

Special Agent Jaime Zapata, who was detailed to ICE’s attache office at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City from his post in Laredo, Texas, was mortally wounded during the daylight attack, which occurred in the northern state of San Luis Potosi on Mexico’s major highway between Mexico City and Monterrey.

During the 2:30 p.m. attack near the town of Santa Maria Del Rio, a second unnamed ICE special agent also assigned to attache office in Mexico City was shot twice in the leg. He has been transported back to the United States and is in stable condition.

According to U.S. and Mexican law enforcement authorities, the two agents were northbound on the four-lane federal highway in a blue Chevrolet Suburban when they stopped at what appeared to be a military checkpoint. It was then that unknown assailants opened fire on the agents.

No motive for the shooting has been established, although it is known that Mexican drug smugglers covet the type of truck the agents were driving and have attacked and killed others to steal them. The agents were on routine business at the time of the attack and not involved in an investigation, the authorities said.

Mexican military officers said they had no checkpoints in the area. San Luis Potosi police said the agents’ bullet-ridden Suburban was found off to the side of the highway.

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The Mexican government condemned what it called “this serious act of violence,” and expressed “solidarity with the government of the United States and the families of the persons who were attacked.”

A statement released by the Mexican Office of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs said federal authorities in that country, in coordination and support of state authorities, are making the “necessary investigations to clarify the events and bring the guilty parties to justice.”

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