According to a new report submitted by the Office of the Inspector General, the Department of Justice’s lack of action under former President Barack Obama’s administration led to the death of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata. As detailed in the report, the DOJ’s anti-illegal gun trafficking program at that time failed to stop the suspects from murdering the agent.
Zapata was killed in 2011 as he and fellow ICE agent Victor Avila were traveling from Matehuala to Mexico City. Upon reaching the town of Santa Maria del Rio, the agents’ SUV was blocked by two vehicles carrying about eight assailants.
Using a variety of assault weapons including AR-1Ss and AK-47s, the suspects on fired on the vehicle. Avila was severely wounded but managed to survive. Zapata, on the other hand, died from his multiple gunshot wounds.
After reviewing the investigation on the incident, the Office of the Inspector General (IG) identified a number of factors that led to the death of the ICE agent. This mainly includes the failed operation carried out by the DOJ.
As stated in the report, the main suspects Otilio Osorio and Robert Riendfliesh were able to purchase their firearms at the Dallas Fort Worth Gun Show and at a pawnshop in Texas in 2010. Analysis on the firearms revealed that these were the same ones used on the attack on Avila and Zapata.
Many of the firearms, particularly those obtained by Riendfliesh, were straw purchases. This means he used a straw purchaser, or another party, to buy the weapons on his behalf.
Despite already having information on Otilio and Riendfliesh, the DOJ along with the other agencies involved in the operation including the FBI, DEA and ATF, failed to prevent the suspects and the straw purchasers from bringing back the firearms they purchased to Mexico.
According to the IG, the lack of action from the DOJ and other agencies involved in the operation led to the tragic consequences involving Zapata.