Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mexican Drug Gang Zetas Suspected in US Special Agent Killing

The Mexico drug gang known for its brutal tactics is the initial suspect in Tuesday's attack on two US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
By Nacha Cattan,

Mexican and US security experts, some with inside information, suspect the Zetas in the killing of an American special agent this week, a prospect that could complicate investigations due to the Mexican drug gang's brutal yet sophisticated tactics.

Further knotting the matter, experts say it is not entirely clear if the gunmen were operating independently or on orders from commanders when they opened fire Tuesday on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents Jamie Zapata and Victor Avila, who were driven off the road between the violent city of Monterrey and Mexico City in the state of San Luis Potosí. Mr. Zapata died from his injuries, and Mr. Avila suffered leg wounds.

Washington swiftly announced the creation of an FBI-led task force from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to work with Mexico in its investigation.

Former ICE Deputy Director Alonzo Pena, who has knowledge of the investigation, says the Zetas gang is an initial suspect. He says investigators will need to exploit informants from rival drug cartels to lead them to those responsible, and will then go after all those who had “any role, any participation in that cowardly act."

“The Zetas have a lot of enemies,” Mr. Pena tells the Monitor from San Antonio, where he recently retired after working for ICE, including a stint as its Mexico City representative. “Hopefully their rivals will find ways to get information to us about them, about how they are operating.”

Hurdles to finding killers
However, he adds, the gang's well-known intimidation tactics of beheadings and gruesome killings, as well as their extensive weaponry, may make it difficult to convince potential informants to step forward.

Another hurdle for investigators might be the increasingly splintered nature of Mexico's gangs. President Felipe Calderón has waged a four-year military campaign that has successfully captured or killed a number of drug lords, breaking up some of their internal chain-of-command and causing splinter groups to form.

“There are cells that sometimes operate on their own and might’ve easily done something without asking for permission from above,” says Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. “It makes it both harder to track them down and harder to hold someone accountable.”

The Zetas gang may be especially elusive for that reason, as its once top-down military-like command morphed after the band of former soldiers began breaking away from the Gulf Cartel several years ago, experts say.

Michael McCaul (R) of Texas, chairman of a House Homeland Security subcommittee, told the Houston Chronicle that "ICE is trying to determine if these were Zetas operating in a rogue fashion or whether this was a hit sanctioned at the very highest levels of the cartel." He said in a statement that the US agents had identified themselves as diplomats, but were shot anyway, likely by Zetas. That account, however, has not been confirmed

Zetas known to hire killers
The Zetas are known to form alliances with local gangs in several states and have in the past hired freelancers to do their dirty work, says Martin Barron, who trains federal investigators at the Mexican government’s National Institute of Criminal Science (Inacipe). Mr. Barron has also been researching street gang recruitment into cartels.

If a cell carried out Tuesday’s shooting without permission from Zetas command, their members may even be killed for “committing an error,” Barron says, which will throw investigators further off the scent. Barron noted that both Zetas and Gulf Cartel members are disputing territory in San Luis Potosí, the state where the shooting took place, and that either gang may be responsible.

Barron added that police whom he trained last month in San Luis Potosí reported to him constant intimidation by traffickers, who either kidnap officers to force them to cooperate or pay off investigators, which occurs in other states as well. This may also hinder investigations, he says. Fox news is also reported that both agents may not have been armed because they are not allowed to carry wapons while in mexico.

On Thursday the US issued a restriction against travel by government officials to San Luis Potosí, which had been relatively calm until drug turf battles broke out in recent months.

Advice to Americans in Mexico: Be inconspicuous
A report by security group STRATFOR says the shooting may have been an attempted robbery of the agents’ armored Chevy Suburban, a similar model to that targeted in an attack last month on a US missionary couple in the Zeta stronghold of Tamaulipas. STRATFOR suggested that US officials use less conspicuous models.

Rules that forbade US agents like Zapata and Avila from carrying weapons in Mexico have also been called into question since the attack.

The Zetas have been recently suspected in a third alleged murder of an American, the September shooting of David Hartley on a border lake, reinforcing the gang’s reputation for inviting conflict and caring little about who they kill.


  1. oh this incident just stinks like a 3 day old dead fish,,,how in the hell are you gonna have 2 federal agents(regardless from another country)helping your pathetic ass country fight cartels,,,,and not let them carry weapons??? ARE U SERIOUS?? Who is that goddam stupid??

  2. @February 18, 2011 9:59 PM

    There not there to fight the drug war, LET ME BREAK IT DOWN BARNEY STYLE: THEY ARE NOT THERE TO SHOOT IT OUT WITH THE NARCOS AND ARREST THEM, they are there to train Mexicans in advanced investigative techniques used in customs and smuggling investigations and nothing more...freakin moron I swear...don't you read anything besides what you read on blogs? So if they were doing an investigation which most likely they were...that's on them, its not there job.

    Also a treaty between Mexico and United States states that U.S officers can't carry fire arms in Mexico and same goes for Mexican officials in the United States. Educate yourself!!

  3. This story is getting boring...tell me something I already don't know. Big Deal, one dead agent. Is it going to help defeat the drug war? No. The drug war is a failure and many more brave men will keep dying for a worthless cause. Legalize drugs and the problem will go away.

  4. "This story is getting boring..."

    No, your same sad song about legalization is getting boring to all of us. It is here because it's news idiot! Lagalize drugs so you can toke up in peace? Have some respect and decency for this agent!

  5. It is spelled their moron

  6. @February 18, 2011 11:32 PM
    Marijuana is not hurting anyone. Like I said lost cause. Stupid people forget history. Look up prohibition, look where that took us? Took out the crime element out of alcohol and became big business!

    "Have some respect and decency for this agent!"

    Did you not see me say "many more brave men will keep dying for a worthless cause." Read before you open your mouth. Many more agents will keep dying even though brave for A LOST CAUSE!!

  7. @ mr full of himself
    Legalise so naive fools fed with lies and false promises do not end up in other countries getting their heads blown off by criminals with far more power then they should have.
    Respect is earned, and the truth is that people fighting the "war on drugs" do not earn automatic respect..nor should they.
    It is a tragedy this boy had to die fighting a false war, i feel for his family, i feel nothing for the people who employed him and sent him down there on a pointless mission.
    Decency? , if there was any decency in the first place he would never have been down there.
    So, idiots should stop telling others who they should respect.

  8. I don't understand Why they lowered the window and let someone shoot inside the car???? Then drive away? So obviously wasn't blocked.. The doors unlocking was weird and why did he put the car in park? These guys thought the Narcos would let them go flashing their documents? JAjajajaj! It's not the Good Ol USA. I feel bad for them but that was really dumb. They need people with street smarts

  9. @ February 19, 2011 1:25 AM
    Anonymous said...

    Legalize drugs and the cartels will make 600% more profits, plus you will get all kinds of idiots driving around high causing accidents. If you think alcahol is bad wait untill drugs get legalized.

    ^^^^^^^^ This is correct !!!! I'm tired of hearing Marijuana is the Wonder Drug that does everything from Cure Cancer to Increase IQ and even pay off the USA National Debt.Besides,Marijuana only counts for appx 20% of the Cartel Profits.Do you Really Want a bunch of Meth Monsters and Crackheads doing their shit on every corner and Driving down the road ????

  10. It seems individuals have failed to mention the laptop that was taken from the two ICE agents. The laptop contained sensitive information of who was involved in the drug trade.

    Since Mexico is about to start elections, a number of politicians are receive funding from outside "sources" where concerned if there name is on the laptop.

    More importantly, look at the vehicle it has some damage but an armored vehicle can take that level of punishment, so why stop? Secondly, It seems that if one was in an armored vehicle (think bullet proof) and one has communications why would anyone roll down a window?

    Unfortunately, the victim knew the assailant ergo, The inside job was basically the politicos, who hired the narcos who then stopped the vehicle.

  11. I still dont know why they keep blabbering about some "ordered hit" when it is almost certainly just a car jacking gone wrong.

  12. Regardless of what the circumstances of the two ICE agents were, it's a shame that the US government ONLY takes notice of the violence in Mexico when it happens to two of their own.

  13. they should not be there in the first place anyone trying to help will die eventually its fun for them so keep on sending the bulletproof agents that 5o cal is going to penetrate regardless of how many rounds

  14. How many Mexican police killed and only a small
    report here and there,
    2 U.S. cia get popped and its in the news for days, it is getting borring already

  15. 7.45, maybe that's partly why Mexico has so many police officers being killed? Because Mexico considers it no big deal, doesn't get outraged and determined to use all resources to investigate and bring their killers to justice. Maybe if they did the cartels wouldn't feel they can kill police with impunity and wouldn't want all the extra heat.

  16. its sad that this happened but why are are agents there in the first place Mexico violence is out of control I dont think 2 unarmed agents can make a diffrence 72 illegals dead , 2 thousand mex police killed , thousands of killings , thousands of kidnappngs, thousands of rapes by cartel members and know 2 ice agents is the last casulality and we get upset ??WTF the USA is responsible for all the killing they buy all the drugs and send all the weapons back to Mx .. Mexico is doing all this war on drugs because of USA pressure USA always up in everyones business and are the cause of much of the drama in the world STOP NOW this is why the world dont like America (Americans ) we think we are the best in the world and look at all the trouble we cause with are drug addicts ,wars and now aplaude Mx war on drugs start at home stop the drug use the drug trade at home not abraod stop all the homlessness here in the USA before sending milliones of USA money to a foriegn country to help them fight drugs its our problem no one elses Mex was a peaceful country before USA pressure to fght the cartels they would make there money slanging to gringos and violence was low . imagine if El Chapo is worth Milliones of dll's who is his American conect that dude is worth 5times what Chapo is imagine gringos buy at wholesale prices from Mexico lets say 10,000 a kilo and then sell it for 25 or 30 dame thats sum chesse so where is that Muther Fu**er probably chilling living it up !!!!

  17. The idea that it may have been robbery was earlier is the latest and a complete turn around..

    Update from stratfor says agents may indeed have been targets.
    I will provide the link but I have not been too sucessful as it is sub I will provide some text. if any problems let me know and I will post more text, ZETAS are suspected............

    "The attack on two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in Mexico on Feb. 15 that left one of the agents dead was a targeted hit sanctioned by the top ranks of the Los Zetas cartel, according to investigators’ working theory behind the attack, STRATFOR sources with knowledge of the investigation reported. Well-placed U.S. federal security sources indicate that the agents may in fact have been targeted because of their status as U.S. federal agents, which could have implications for future U.S. involvement in counternarcotics operations in Mexico.

    Evidence available at present now suggests an incident that began as a random encounter rather than a pre-planned ambush, but evolved into a targeted hit once the agents were identified as U.S. federal law enforcement. It was originally thought that the men were targeted because they were driving in a high-profile, fully-armored Chevrolet Suburban SUV, a valuable commodity among cartel members. While the attackers’ original intent may have been carjacking, according to STRATFOR sources, the two agents made an unscheduled stop for lunch at a fast-food restaurant along the route before the incident — possibly allowing scouts to identify them as U.S. law enforcement"

    Read more: Update on the ICE Attack in Mexico | STRATFOR

  18. @Buela I don't know why you pay for Stratfor, we know more about about the case then they do. Besides Stratfor are a bunch of idiots that say a lot of shit but don't know what they are really talking bout. First it was a car jacking, today they were targeted, tomorrow lets see what they tell us....

  19. Hahaha, you get your news from Stratfor? I would not be bragging about that here on BB!

  20. @5:16 am
    The assailants were unable open the armored suburban. No way they could have gotten inside to take a laptop. The only reason the agents were shot was becausevthey opened the window just enough for the sicarios to squeeze an ak barrel and start shooting.

  21. For all the resident marijuana users on here.
    If you like marijuana so much and feel guilty about you funding cartels by buying it, why don't you grow at home for personal use? Grow at home and if you get busted (mostly likely a ticket in some states for 2 plants) take the heat if you are so set on smoking dope. Grow some balls.

  22. yeah but you can't grow coca plants around here. Weather conditions n soil wont allow it.

  23. @1:06 pm

    I don't think we will ever get the full story or know exactly what happened, but I do know it has been reported in various medias that the doors were opened, at least for a few moments.

    This is from the Monitor, but there are several other medias reporting the same.

    "The agents showed their U.S. diplomatic papers to the gunmen, showing they were federal agents. But the gunmen refused to relent.

    Zapata shifted the vehicle in park, which automatically unlocked its doors. The gunmen tried to pull the agents from the vehicle. But they managed to close the doors.

    Zapata’s window was open a crack, allowing the gunmen to stick an AK-47 assault rifle and a pistol through the opening. They “shot indiscriminately,” the official said, striking Zapata several times in the abdomen and Avila twice in the leg."

  24. I am from San Diego and grow my own. I wouldn't wipe my ass with Mexican Cannabis. The genetics are very poor and almost all of it is hermorphodite from years of bad breeding.

  25. US FED agents cannot carry in MX. However many contractors can and do carry weapons. In addition contractors may often exact justice on the perps. You may not like it but thats the flushes sometimes. I have no problems with it

  26. I have a question for anyone with contacts or experience in Mexico - Since this "drug war" started what is the authorities attitude toward citizens in possession of handguns? Are they at all lenient towards an ordinary citizen with a pistol in their home? Are they tougher because there is no such thing as an innocent or ordinary citizen?

    If anyone has any kind of info - thanks very much.

  27. There is only one source to get a license for firarms in Mexico. You must go through the Army. Every cartel member in the world will know who has it and what it is.....

  28. @February 19, 2011 5:46 PM

    Depends, if your keeping it inside and using it for protection of your home and family then no, they don't have a problem. There has been many citizens who have killed criminals because they were able to prove they were defending their property. You can legally obtain certain handguns, but not all handguns, but it has to go through the Army, lengthy process average time frame it takes is anywhere from 2 weeks to a month but they will give it to you. No problem if you have a clean criminal record.

    @February 19, 2011 7:18 PM

    "I have no clue what you were trying to say.
    Every cartel member in the world will know who has it and what it is....."

  29. What I am trying to say there Jerry's kid is that when you have to go through 1 place to get a weapon that all those who are tainted have potential access. Are you 12 years old or just retarded? Finish the 100 meters and get your hug.

  30. @February 20, 2011 5:54 AM

    Nice insults haha I'm so hurt(Sarcasm) "Jerry's kid" and "Are you 12 years old or just retarded? Finish the 100 meters and get your hug." Just shows me the maturity level you have and how retard you are hahahahaha Jerry's kid lol what a loser who says that???


  32. Lets all "Boycott" mexico, until either the mexican goverment takes control of the situation. God willing let them kill off as many of them as they can before the U.S. has to come in and it won't be long. Ever see the movie "Clear and Present Danger" its right around the corner.

  33. Too the idiot who thought is was a car jacking gone wrong. Who in their right mind is going to "CARJACK" a vehicle with "DIPOLMATIC" plates, what color is the the sky in the world you live in?. Quick making excuses it was a targeted hit on the U.S. that makes it an act of war.


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