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Tuesday
Feb222011

Top US Officials Mourn Slain ICE Agent, Promise Justice

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement(BROWNSVILLE, Texas) -- Three of the nation's top law enforcement officials Tuesday eulogized slain U.S. special agent Jaime Zapata, who was gunned down in Mexico last week. They also pledged that his killers would be brought to justice.

"The U.S. and Mexico will bring the long, hard arm of the law down on Jaime and Victor's shooters," said an emotional Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton, addressing Zapata's parents at the funeral in Brownsville, Texas.

Zapata and fellow agent Victor Avila were returning to Mexico City from a training exercise in Monterrey when their armored SUV with diplomatic plates was chased off the road and later sprayed with gunfire. No arrests have been made in the case.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, "We will not relent or flinch or let up in any way in our determination to see that those responsible for his death will be held responsible for their crimes."

Alluding to the violent drug cartels believed to have ties to the attacks, Attorney General Eric Holder vowed officials would "eradicate the scourge" that led to Zapata's death. "That is how we will honor Agent Zapata, that is how we will pay tribute to him. And that is how we will ensure that his spirit will live on," he said.

The presence of three top Obama administration officials at Zapata's funeral underscores the seriousness of the attack, which was the highest-profile Mexican incident involving a U.S. government agent in more than 20 years. It also reflects a growing concern by law enforcement chiefs that U.S. agents may be becoming targets.

Zapata, 32, was a four-year ICE veteran based in Laredo, Texas, and Avila, was a six-year ICE veteran based in El Paso, Texas. Both men had been stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City as part of a human smuggling and border security enforcement task force.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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