The parents of fallen ICE Special Agent Jaime J. Zapata, along with injured Special Agent Victor Avila, on Wednesday filed notices of claims totaling $62.5 million against three federal agencies.
The claims allege negligence, stating that acts and omissions of the government and its agencies created the opportunity for Zapata’s death and Avila’s injury in 2011.
Zapata, of Brownsville, was slain and Avila, of El Paso, was injured Feb. 15, 2011, in what officials say was an attack by the Zetas drug cartel as the two agents were returning to Mexico City after meeting in San Luis Potosí with staff assigned to Monterrey. Zapata and Avila reportedly were picking up equipment.
“Ignoring a written directive specifying the extraordinary dangers of this area and the concerns expressed by several agents, the supervisors required Jaime and Victor to make this dangerous trip,” the claims notices state.
Zapata’s parents and Avila retained attorneys to pursue claims against the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI “arising out of their wrongdoing.”
The attorneys are Benigno “Trey” Martinez of Martinez, Barrera & Martinez of Brownsville; Raymond L. Thomas of Kittleman, Thomas & Gonzales of McAllen; and Magdalena A. Villalobos of the Rad Law Firm of Fort Worth.
“Their failures were not only negligent, but in violation of their own policies and procedures,” the claims state.
The claimants and the amount of money they are seeking are Mary M. Zapata as the administrator of the estate of Jaime J. Zapata, $25 million; Mary M. Zapata and Amador Zapata, Jr., as the survivors of Jaime Jorge Zapata, $25 million; and Victor Avila Jr., $12.5 million.
“The concerns expressed by other agents was that the trip would unnecessarily risk the lives of two young agents,” the notices state, adding that the equipment could easily have been shipped through the diplomatic courier service assigned to the embassy.
When the agents were ambushed in the armored vehicle they were using, the doors unlocked unexpectedly because of a flaw, giving the attackers easy access to the agents, according to the claims.
“Jaime bled to death and Victor called for help,” the notices state.
The notices maintain that a Texas-based operation similar to Operation Fast and Furious is responsible for allowing the weapons that killed Zapata and injured Avila to get into the hands of known killers.
Under Operation Fast and Furious, ATF allegedly monitored criminals trafficking arms within the United States and allowed guns to “walk” into Mexico. The aim was to identify major weapons smugglers and drug cartel operatives
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has said she doesn’t know if the weapons used to kill Zapata and injure Avila are tied to the operation.
Original article courtesy of Brownsville Herald located here: http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/zapata-141638-agencies-jaime.html