On February 15, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila were returning to Mexico City, where they were assigned after a meeting, when they were ambushed by members of the Zetas cartel on a highway near San Luis Potosi.
Agent Avila was lucky. While seriously wounded in the attack he managed to survive, and is on the long road to recovery back in the United States. Agent Zapata died as a result of the ambush, and it was determined that he was killed with a weapon smuggled across the U.S. border.
A week after the ambush Julian Zapata Espinoza, aka “El Piolin,” was captured and confessed to the shooting, saying that the Zetas mistook the ICE Chevrolet Suburban for a vehicle driven by a rival cartel. Curiously, that confession does not match the facts as related by Agent Avila, which indicated the cartel knew exactly who they were attacking. It seems unlikely that the cartel gunners could have missed seeing the U.S. government diplomatic plates as they overtook the vehicle from behind and rammed it off the side of the road.
Regardless of the other details of the ambush, what is known is that these two agents were shot at point-blank range by a gunman armed with a weapon that had been purchased in a gun store in the United States. Agent Zapata’s death is commonly accepted as the second U.S. fatality related to “Operation Fast and Furious.”
But that isn’t entirely true.
The weapon used to shoot these agents was not sold in the Phoenix, Arizona, area that was the hub of Operation “Fast and Furious,” also known as Gunwalker, which allowed gunrunners to acquire the gun that was used to murder Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December. Instead, one of the weapons used to shoot these two ICE agents came from Lancaster, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.
Brothers Otilio and Ranferi Osorio and their neighbor Kevin Morrison were arrested in Texas after Zapata’s death, but only after ATF and DEA agents had organized a transfer of some 40 weapons in November. It was one of those rifles that was traced back to Agent Zapata’s murder.
Senator Charles Grassley noted that these three men had actually been stopped by local police after the transfers took place, but they were not arrested — presumably on orders from the Department of Justice.
The men were trailed as part of a multi-agency operation similar to Fast and Furious, that to date has not been named, in the Dallas Field Operations area, which encompasses southwest Texas, north Texas, and Oklahoma.
This is in addition to considerable circumstantial evidence that the Houston Field Operations area, which is made up of central and southeastern Texas, may have been responsible for shipping a large percentage of the recovered guns linked to Mexican cartels in central and southern Mexico. How large is the alleged Houston operation? It could possibly dwarf the Arizona operation now so infamously known as the source of the weapons recovered at Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder.
On March 3, Senator Grassley sent a letter to Kenneth Melson, the acting director of the ATF, “concerned that the ATF may have employed the same risky strategy of encouraging weapons trafficking that was employed elsewhere by the ATF, beyond the Phoenix Field Office and its Operation ‘Fast and Furious.’”
Melson and the ATF never answered, prompting a follow-up letter on March 28, in which he revealed that the Department of Justice knew Otilio and Ranferi Osorio and Kevin Morrison were straw purchasers of cartel weapons as early as August 7, 2010, 193 days before Agents Avila and Zapata were murdered with a “walked” Texas gun.
In addition to the allegations of “Fast and Furious” type operations in both Texas Field Operations areas and the Fast and Furious operation itself in Arizona, there are sources reporting to Mike Vanderboegh and David Codrea that another operation, codenamed “Castaway,” may have run as many as a thousand guns to MS-13 in Honduras from the Tampa Field Operations area, and that field agents are itching to testify.
“Fast and Furious” in Arizona, “Castaway” in Florida, unnamed operations in both the Dallas and Houston Field Operations areas — how many operations like “Fast and Furious” were run concurrently by the ATF, FBI, DOJ, IRS, DEA, and DHS?
Are the confirmed operation in Arizona and the three suspected operations in Texas and Florida just the tip of a wider conspiracy run across the entire southern border?
Just how many individual operations are there in what appears to be a multi-jurisduction, multi-state Gunwalker scandal, which perverted the largely successful Gunrunner program launched in cooperation with Mexico under the previous administration?
What was the ultimate goal of these projects? Was it a cynical and criminal enterprise to manufacture cartel-linked murders in order to generate domestic support for harsh gun control measures — like that issued by fiat by the Obama administration yesterday?
According to Mexican authorities, Gunwalker is allegedly responsible for contributing to hundreds of murders. As Congress digs to expose the roots of the scandal, the Obama Justice Department digs in, exuding the tell-tale signs of a cover-up: firing whistleblowers, manufacturing scapegoats, and manipulating witnesses.
By any objective measure, how is Gunwalker not a bigger scandal than Watergate or Iran-Contra?
Unfortunately for the Obama administration and the appointed officials that appear to be at the heart of this scandal, discovery seems to be outpacing the ability of the government to cover up their actions.