Obama DOJ Failed to Stop Mexican Cartel Murder of ICE Agent with Smuggled Guns

The Obama administration had numerous opportunities to arrest Mexican drug and weapons traffickers before murdering a federal U.S. agent and seriously wounding his partner but opted for the hands-off approach, a new federal audit reveals. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which operates under the Department of Justice (DOJ), should have stopped the traffickers—members of the Los Zetas organization—long before the Immigration and Customs (ICE) agents were ambushed in Mexico with firearms smuggled south of the border thanks to a once-secret Obama administration gun-running operation.

Instead, on February 15, 2011, ICE agents Victor Avila and Jaime Zapata were assaulted while returning to Mexico City from Matehuala, Mexico in their government-issued armored sports utility vehicle. Both agents were on assignment in Mexico and their SUV displayed diplomatic license plates. After passing through a toll booth on Mexican Route 57 in the early afternoon the agents noticed that two vehicles were following them, one of which passed and blocked the agents’ SUV from the front, forcing it to stop. Approximately eight assailants approached the SUV armed with various firearms, including assault weapons (AK-47s and AR-1Ss) and handguns. Two of the assailants gained access to the interior of the SUV through a partially open window and shot Zapata and Avila. Zapata died and Avila was seriously wounded.

Authorities determined that members of the renowned drug trafficking organization Los Zetas carried out the attack with weapons that had been purchased in Texas as part of a scandalous Obama administration operation that that allowed guns from the U.S. to be smuggled into Mexico so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels. The whole thing blew up when federal law enforcement officers lost track of hundreds of weapons which have been used in an unknown number of crimes, including the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona. In this case the buyers, Otilio Osorio and his brother, Ranferi Osorio, had long been on the ATF radar for trafficking guns to Mexico. In fact, more than a year before the ICE agents were attacked the ATF witnessed the Osorio brothers “complete a transfer of 40 firearms” to Mexico, according to a report issued this month by the DOJ Inspector General. “There clearly was probable cause to arrest both Osorio brothers,” the report states after ATF witnessed the Osorios complete a transfer of more than three dozen firearms on November 9, 2010.

Even when ATF agents found guns that they were legally entitled to seize at the Osorio brothers’ house in Lancaster, Texas they didn’t. Two of those weapons were later found at crime scenes in Mexico, the DOJ watchdog writes in its report. “Overall we found numerous problems with ATF’s assimilation of information concerning the Osorio brothers…and the timeliness of ATF’s response to mounting evidence that they were committing firearms offenses,” the report states. “We determined the ATF’s Dallas Field Division had collected sufficient facts to investigate further before Otilio Osorio purchased the gun used in the Mexico ambush.” The report identifies firearms that are most popular among Mexican drug cartels; “These include powerful long arms with high capacity ammunition clips. Examples are the Barrett .SO caliber rifle, AK-47 type rifles, and AR-1S type rifles. The firearms purchased by Otilio Osorio and Riendfliesh both were variants of the AK-47 (a Draco 7.62 caliber pistol and a WASR-10 7.62 caliber semi-automatic rifle).”

Judicial Watch was a leader in investigating the Obama administration’s illegal Mexican gun-running operation and filed several lawsuits in federal court to uncover details. Known as Fast and Furious, the scandalous secret program was masterminded by the DOJ and implemented by the ATF under the leadership of Obama Attorney General Eric Holder. The weapons have been implicated in hundreds of crimes in both Mexico and the U.S., the records show. They also document how high-level officials of the Obama administration covered up the scandal and that the former president abused his office by asserting executive privilege to keep Fast and Furious records from going public. Obama even exerted executive privilege for Holder’s wife and mother to conceal emails with the then Attorney General involving the operation.

The motto of Judicial Watch is “Because no one is above the law”. To this end, Judicial Watch uses the open records or freedom of information laws and other tools to investigate and uncover misconduct by government officials and litigation to hold to account politicians and public officials who engage in corrupt activities.