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Monday
Feb212011

Services for Customs Agent Killed in Mexico Begin Monday

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement(BROWNSVILLE, Texas) -- A visitation and rosary service will be held in Brownsville, Texas Monday for the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent that was killed by gunmen in Mexico last week.

Special Agent Jaime Zapata and another agent were driving between Mexico City and Monterrey on Feb. 15 when they were attacked by ten gunmen, leaving Zapata fatally wounded and the other agent with injuries to the arm and leg, according to U.S. officials.

According to The Brownsville Herald, the viewing and rosary service for Zapata will be held at the Brownsville Events Center.  His funeral Mass will be held on Tuesday morning at the same location, followed by a procession to the Rose Lawn Memorial Gardens in Brownsville, where Zapata will be buried.

The agent's viewing, rosary service, and funeral Mass will be open to the public.´╗┐

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan242011

Supporters of Slain Border Agent Seek Justice, Answers

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Less than one month before a gunman went on a bloody rampage in suburban Tucson, killing six and wounding 13, a similarly gruesome scene played out in a dark canyon just outside the city.

Bandits armed with AK-47s attacked a group of U.S. Border Patrol agents, including Brian Terry, a three-year veteran of the force who was shot in the back and killed.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers, friends and family of Terry gathered Friday for a memorial service at a Tucson sports arena. And some voiced frustration that justice for their fallen comrade hasn't come fast enough.

"The FBI is being completely mum on where the investigation is at," said National Border Patrol Council President T.J. Bonner in an interview. "We're pressing to get some answers not only for our organization but the family."

Bonner said the lack of details on the investigation was particularly troublesome in light of federal investigators' robust response to the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at an event two weeks ago.

"It's incumbent upon the FBI to be more forthcoming about what they know and what they don't know," he said.

Federal law enforcement officials contacted by ABC News said four suspects are in custody, detained immediately following the shooting Dec. 15, but that a fifth suspect remains at large. Some observers believe he likely escaped to Mexico.

"We've got to hunt them down and put them in jail, whether they're drug traffickers, alien smugglers or, in this particular case, people who shoot and kill border patrol agents," said Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton.

An FBI spokesman declined to discuss the ongoing investigation or identify the names of the men in custody but said that the suspects were being held on "immigration charges."

No murder charges have been filed in Terry's death.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

Thursday
Oct142010

In D.C. Protest, Federal Agents Demand Freedom for ATF Agent Charged with Murder

Photo Courtesy - ATF(WASHINGTON) -- Federal law enforcement agents staged a protest in Washington, D.C. Wednesday afternoon against what a leader called the "animal farm" system of justice in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where an ATF agent will stand trial for murder later this month in a controversial case.

"Will Clark is a hero, not a criminal," said Jon Adler, head of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, a group that represents 25,000 officers from 55 agencies, including the ATF.  "He deserves a medal, not a jail cell."

Special agent William Clark is charged with second-degree murder for shooting his neighbor Marcus Sukow at their St. Thomas condo complex in 2008.  Sukow's girlfriend had sought help from Clark during a domestic dispute, and Sukow was angry, inebriated and wielding a metal flashlight when Clark shot him.

The case has pitted local cops against federal agents, and caused furious U.S. law enforcement authorities to withhold help from local police while crime and gun violence in the popular tourist destination continues to climb.  In 2009, the murder rate in the U.S. territory was eight times that of the mainland.

At the protest, held at 4:30 p.m. outside the U.S. Virgin Islands Governor's office in Washington, Adler asked for a boycott of the islands "until they learn to respect the rule of law and stop undermining our Constitution."

"Beyond the obvious message of justice for Will Clark," said Adler, "I have this one question: why are we spending millions of American taxpayer dollars to fund their corrupt animal farm justice system?"

Virgin Islands prosecutor Renee Gumbs Carty confirmed to ABC News that jury selection in Clark's trial is scheduled to begin a week from Monday, but declined further comment.

On September 7, 2008, Clark was leaving his condo when he saw his neighbor Marguerite Duncan trying to back up her car.  Her boyfriend, Marcus Sukow, was blocking her car and yelling at her.  Witnesses said Sukow and Duncan had been drinking at brunch before returning to the apartment complex.

ATF Review Cleared Clark in Shooting

Witnesses say Sukow took a foot-long metal flashlight and struck Duncan's car.  Duncan got out of her car and got into Clark's car after he agreed to give her a ride.  Sukow then yelled at Duncan to get out of Clark's car, and Clark told Sukow to go inside.

Sukow then approached Clark's car with flashlight in hand, and either struck Clark's car with the flashlight or swung it at Sukow or both, according to witness accounts.  Clark, who as an ATF agent is always on duty and always armed, shot Sukow and killed him.

After the local government decided to prosecute Clark, the ATF stopped sending agents to the U.S. Virgin Islands.  A confidential 2009 letter obtained by the St. Thomas Source, a local newspaper, gave then-U.S. Attorney Paul Murphy's account of the "collateral damage" to law enforcement in the islands, and indicated that other federal agents who remain in the islands are not assisting the local police department.

"Given the current legal and factual positions taken by the Virgin Islands government, federal agents are not responding and will not respond," wrote Murphy in a May 13, 2009 letter to U.S.V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer.

It was not until after Clark was charged in 2009 that a witness account emerged in which Sukow was charging at Clark and swinging his flashlight before he was shot.  The witness who provided the account said she had given local police this account at the time of the incident, but the local police did not make it part of the official record.

The case has become a cause celebre for federal law enforcement agents.  Advocates of Clark say he was operating under the federal Good Samaritan rule, which says officers may intervene when physical injury to someone is imminent.

In July, the acting director of the ATF recorded a video message for ATF agents to update them on the Clark case.  Kenneth Melson, who emphasized that an ATF shooting review panel had unanimously concluded Clark's actions were justified and legal, said he knew agents were troubled by Clark's case.  "I have been monitoring all aspects this case to ensure that I am taking all possible actions to support Will,' said Melson.  "Accordingly, all agents have been removed from the island until further notice while we make sure that our agents are never again subjected to the ordeal being faced by Will Clark."

Rep. Lee Introduces Resolution Supporting Clark

Rep. Chris Lee, R.-N.Y., introduced a resolution in Congress this summer in support of Clark. Rep. Lee told ABC News that he heard about the case through constituents in May, has had a chance to meet with Clark, and has become an avid supporter.

Rep. Lee said he is concerned, however, that local island politics is interfering with justice.  "The scary part is you're dealing with a man's life," said Rep. Lee.  "He was cleared and my fear is this has become more political."

Lee said he understands the ATF's decision to pull its agents out of the islands.  "I don't think any of our federal law enforcement officials should go back into the U.S. Virgin Islands until this is resolved," said Rep. Lee, "because how do you tell a law enforcement official that this couldn't happen to them?"

Other federal agents remain in the islands, where law enforcement is grappling with a spike in gun violence.

A spokeswoman for the Virgin Islands police confirmed that in 2009, the murder rate in the Virgin Islands was 51 per 100,000 population -- a figure eight times the U.S. average.  The violence was concentrated on St. Thomas, the center of population and the tourist industry.  St. Croix and St. John, the other two major islands in the group, had far less criminal activity.  So far in 2010, 56 people have been killed, slightly ahead of last year's rate, while crime on the mainland continues to fall.

Clark, who is from Rochester, N.Y., has been living in upstate New York and continuing to serve as an ATF agent while free pending trial.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio