Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Suspects change story, Claim ICE agents provoked attack

Thursday, May 19, 2011 |

photo:CISCA/Grupo Refroma

The Brownsville Herald
A leading Mexican newspaper is reporting that suspects in the fatal attack on ICE Special Agent Jaime J. Zapata have changed their story and now claim that Zapata and his partner provoked the encounter.

The new account drew strong reaction from U.S. officials.

“I’ll take the word of our federal agents over a terrorist any day,” U.S. Rep. Michael T. McCaul, of Austin, said.

Zapata and fellow agent Victor Avila were attacked Feb. 15 when traveling on official business in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí. Zapata died at the scene, and Avila was injured.

Julian “El Piolín” Zapata Espinoza, one of those detained as a suspect in the case, now says that the U.S. agents fired first, Reforma said, citing case files in the investigation.

In February, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office said that Zapata Espinoza claimed that confusion led to the attack because his Zetas group believed that the agents’ SUV belonged to a rival drug cartel.

McCaul rejected the new account.

“The fact is Agents Zapata and Avila were ambushed,” he said. “They clearly identified themselves as U.S. diplomats and the cartel responded with over 80 rounds from AK-47s.”

Phil Jordan, a former supervisor with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and former director of the El Paso Intelligence Center, said, “There is no way that the agents would have provoked the attack.”

“Anybody that believes this is either smoking something other than cigarettes or chewing peyote,” Jordan said.

Reforma reported Thursday the new account that Zapata and Avila provoked the attack after they accidentally hit a pickup in a convoy of three vehicles carrying a squad of hit men armed with AK-47s.

According to Reforma, the hit man, or “sicarios,” say they stopped and got out of their vehicles after the accidental collision. When the ICE agents saw the men were armed, the agents fired at the hitmen who then fired back, riddling the SUV the ICE agents were riding in with 20 bullets, according to the account.

Officials in Mexico and the United States have said the two agents were not armed.

According to Reforma, the investigation has revealed that besides Zapata Espinoza, suspects include Ruben Dario Vanegas, alias “El Catracho,” from Honduras, and Armando Francisco Gonzalez, alias “El Ojitos,” who reportedly was carrying a U.S. police credential or identification card.

According to Reforma, the case file says that two bullets hit the front windshield of the SUV, nine bullets struck the back part of the SUV and seven hit Zapata. Information is that the Zetas handed Zapata Espinoza and members of his cell over to the government, because Zeta bosses concluded that Zapata’s death had unnecessarily brought heat to the area under their control.

A member of the Zetas reportedly told authorities that the bosses ordered that Zapata Espinoza be reunited with his cell and that they would either be killed or handed over to the authorities.

Reforma reported that Sergio Mora, alias “El Toto,” a boss in San Luis Potosí who allegedly coordinated the hit men, testified that the attack had nothing to do with Zapata Espinoza wanting the SUV or because he thought the agents were members of a rival cartel.

Mora reportedly said that Zapata Espinoza claimed that the SUV had followed him and had struck his pickup and that the U.S. agents had fired at them when they got out of their pickup.

According to the Reforma report, Jose Sarabia Castro (or Luis Jesus Sarabia; the name has been given both ways), known as “El Comandante Pepito,” was above Mora, and Jesus Enrique Rejon Aguilar “El Mamito” was above Sarabia. Until February, Rejon Aguilar reportedly had been the Zetas boss in the state of San Luis Potosí, Reforma said.

U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, reacted swiftly to the new allegations: “Special Agents Victor Avila Jr. and Jaime Zapata were brutally attacked while working as a part of ICE’s attaché office in Mexico City. Zapata died in the line of duty as a result of the unprovoked attack.

“It is obscene for the assailants to claim that their assault on American law enforcement officers was in self-defense. I will work to aggressively pursue this case on behalf of the Avila and Zapata families,” Farenthold said.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, said of the new account: “You’ve got to look at the source.”

“I will stick with the Department of Homeland Security investigators that have very carefully looked at the circumstance of the murder of the ICE agent, and I stand by the work that they’re doing and the work they have done,” Cuellar said.

Cuellar said the United States would continue working with Mexico to bring the guilty parties to justice. The U.S. has already begun the paperwork for the extradition of Zapata Espinoza.

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13 Borderland Beat Comments:

J said...

I don't know if it's true or not, but the explanation works for me, it's plausible. Who knows what happened down there that day, the whole thing reminds me of 'Deliverance' or something. Who knows whos telling the truth, and who did what to whom.

Anonymous said...

The US Fed has immediatley rejected the notion that the Mexican Drug army, is a terrorist group, DEM politics dripping off that Brilliant move. Now the Shitheads are spinning any story they can,they are Mexicans,its in the DNA. The USA needs a sacrificial cow, in the end the US will have done nothing other than political blustering. I believe that the killing of any officer Mexican,American,or other should bring the wrath of hell on all, PERIOD.

Layla2 said...

Show me the bullet casings if US Agents fired on mexican thugs. Oh, and the Zetas are a trustworthy group... Biggest crock.

But ya know, we need to get the hell out of Mexico too. Out of all foreign govts and wars. Let Mexico give the people guns and ammo and let them fight it out like the group up in the mountains.

The US should decriminalize here at home and let the cards fall where they may. Whoever in govt is on cartel's payroll would be exposed.

Anonymous said...

Texcoco Mex said.

This is BS just like the guy said anybody that believes this is either smoking something other than cigarettes or chewing peyote.

Why will the ICE agents follow this people for?

Officials in Mexico and the United States have said the two agents were not armed. Mexico doesn't allow U.S agents to have a gun in Mexico.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the killing of any officer Mexican,American,or other should bring the wrath of hell on all, PERIOD.

What a crock of shit! It's this line of sheepish thinking that has got the US in the trouble its in today. Why do we need to hold every person in the law enforcement or the military to such a high esteem, like if they are gods. Look at the ruling a judge in Indiana just passed where law enforcement can kick down your door w/or w/o a warrant. What about TSA in the airports sticking thier hands down babies diapers, groping children, fondling women and exposing folks to high levels of radiation from thier scanning machines. Do me a favor and don't pay your taxes for a year or two and see if these thugs in ski mask and a badge don't kick down your door and shake you down. These folks are the muscle for the NWO, much like the zetas were for the CDG.

Anonymous said...

They are "Zetas" kill them ALL and be done with it! Who cares about anything else? death to ALL criminals in Mexico! KILL THEM ALL NOW! DEATH is the ONLY answer!

Anonymous said...

Who let the conspiracy theorist on here again? You`ve been watching too much wrestling on TV. NWO? I guess Hulk Hogan is gonna rule the world along with Hussein Obama?

Anonymous said...

@ Anno May 19 11:56pm

I like how you use extreme examples to downplay law enforcement or the military. You don't explain why the judge ruled to allow warrantless searches only that "law enforcement can kick down your door." The only one with sheep thinking here is you. You complain about TSA doing patdowns but you're the type of person who would immediately blame the gov't for not doing enough to prevent another terrorist attack involving an airplane. Flying is not a right it's a commodity. Go live in the hut in the forest if you don't want to pay taxes. I don't think anyone likes to pay taxes you douchebag.

Anonymous said...

@J,

Your an idiot, if you think the two US Federal Agents opened fire on a convoy of men armed with AK-47s. Get real, maybe you didn't catch the part, where this douchebag changed his story, in a last ditch effort to resist extradition to the United States. Damn, are you that stupid? Bottom line..the upper Zeta leadership handed this dude over along with his cell members to prevent any further "heating up" of their plaza.

xyz said...

at May 20, 2011 2:17 PM

You do know that after that happened the US was able to work closer with the Mexican gov right? Before that slaying the US wasnt doing much handson work in the Mexico. Now they are. So dont you think the US gov might take the 1 casualty of the fallen ICE agent in order to have some privellages now with the mex gov. Now were flying drones over into mexico and even having telecomms with the mexican police for better communication.

Im just saying that them getting into an ambush might of been planned, but the fallen ice agent wasnt.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:36 what post are you talking about? your comments have nothing to do with 11:56 pm. What post are reading? TSA? You're on the wrong page.

Layla2 said...

Why ban the 'Conspiracy Theorists' when we have the 'Kill All Now!' blurting away.

Anonymous said...

@xyz,

Wrong! First of all, prior to Agent Zapata's murder, the U.S. was already (for years) working real close with the Mexican government. Just because the U.S.'s actions aren't broadcast or headlined doesn't mean the U.S. has been watching on the sidelines. Second, the drones have always been flying over Mexico..this is nothing new..It's just recently come to light (news reported). I respect your opinion, at the risk of shaking my head in disbelief, thinking that you might actually believe Agent Zapata decided to risk his own life (sacrifice) in an effort to get the U.S. more involved in the Mexican drug war! C'mon dude, it's real simple the two U.S. Federal Agents were at the wrong place at the wrong time..the Zetas' caravan came across this black shiney new Chevrolet Suburban driving through their terroritory. They simply road blocked it in and the agents were banking on their credentials and the diplomatic plates would save them but they were dealing with the Zetas. Let's not dishonor this Agent's memory with ridiculous stories and conspiracy theories!

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