Republicans investigating the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal piled more pressure on attorney general Eric Holder on Wednesday, insisting he answers questions on the death of immigration officer Jaime Zapata.
Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley gave Holder two weeks to tell them why agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not intercept the guns that were used to kill Zapata as he worked in Mexico in February.
ssa, the Californian who chairs the House Oversight Committee and Iowan Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee have relentlessly pursued Holder for answers surrounding the Fast and Furious case in which guns were bought by so-called straw purchasers and smuggled into Mexico. At least four Republican Congressmen have called for Holder’s resignation.
The plan was to follow the weapons which, it was believed, would lead them to leaders of Mexico’s violent drug cartels. But hundreds of weapons went missing and have been used in crimes on both sides of the border including Zapata’s murder and the killing in December of Border Agent Brian Terry in Arizona.
Three men, brothers Otilio and Ranferi Osorio and their next-door neighbor Kelvin Morrison , were arrested at their homes in Lancaster, Texas within two weeks of Zapata’s murder. They are awaiting trial on charges of possessing firearms with obliterated serial numbers and could each face 15 years in jail.
In their letter to Holder, Issa and Grassley say the men bought the weapon that killed Zapata on Oct. 10 last year and it was trafficked into Mexico within two weeks.
They claim ATF officers even watched on Nov. 9 as the Morrison and the Osorio brothers unloaded 40 weapons in large bags into a confidential informant’s vehicle which was being kept under surveillance.
“Local law enforcement officials stopped the vehicle later in the day – presumably in concert with ATF and for the purpose of identifying the vehicle’s inhabitants. Inexplicably none of the suspects were arrested,” the two GOP members wrote.
Issa and Grassley also want to know why the ATF agents did not create an investigation report until Feb. 25, the day it became clear that Zapata had been killed by a Fast and Furious weapon.
“Documenting investigative steps three months after the fact and only after a trace returned to the murder of a federal agent raises red flags about the nature of ATF’s investigation,” they wrote.
Zapata, 32, was working out of the immigration office in Laredo, Texas when he was sent on assignment to Mexico City, his mother Mary Zapata-Munoz told the Houston Chronicle in an interview. She was under the impression he would be working at a desk job gathering intelligence in the U.S. embassy.
“I never thought on that fateful day that he said, 'Mom, I'm going to Mexico City on an assignment,' that he wouldn't come back," she said. "I never thought that his life was being in danger."
Zapata-Munoz said she still has no idea why her son was in San Luis Potosi, 250 miles north of the capital, when he was killed, nine days into his Mexican mission. When she was told of his death, her initial reaction was “That’s not my son. It can’t be. He’s not supposed to be there.”
The family was told that Zapata and fellow agent Victor Avila were ambushed by gunmen with assault weapons and that they had identified themselves by pressing their IDs up to the window of their armored SUV which carried diplomatic license plates.
But the agents made a fatal mistake by rolling a window down slightly to talk to the gunmen, who stuck a handgun and an AK-47 through and started shooting, reported the Chronicle. Zapata was shot in a major artery in his leg and died from loss of blood.
Zapata-Munoz told the Chronicle, "I feel like I'm not getting the truth. I know nothing will bring my son back. But I want to make sure that no other person has to go through what we went through, what Jaime went through.
“Can you imagine those last moments, trying to save your life and your buddy's life?
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