SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Jaime Zapata, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent, was on assignment in Mexico City a year ago when attackers suddenly forced his SUV off the road.
Zapata, a South Texas native, was accompanied by fellow agent Victor Avila, who’s originally from El Paso.
The attackers began pumping dozens of rounds into the bullet-proof Chevy Suburban with their AK-47s.
The SUV’s doors became unlocked and somehow a window was slightly opened, allowing attackers to fire inside the car.
Zapata, behind the wheel, was killed. Avila was injured but survived.
How exactly did the assailants gain access inside the car? It’s unknown since the case remains under investigation.
But some say things could have turned out differently.
“It should have gone another way,” said Trent Kimball, President and CEO of Texas Armoring Corporation. Kimball has clients from all over the world, but a large chunk of business comes from Mexico.
“You don’t want to place blame on someone that’s no longer with us, but all this could have been avoided just by not stopping the vehicle at all or not trying to open the window or anything like that,” Kimball said.
Not being privy to the details of the investigation, it’s hard for him to reach a definitive conclusion. But as far as he can tell in the attacks on the ICE agents, the armored Suburban did its job.
Kimball said can only deduce it was human error that led to the doors being unlocked when Zapata stopped and put the vehicle in park.
“If you are in an accident, those door locks are going to pop open, but you’re able to lock yourself in the vehicle using our dead-bolt locking door system,” he said.
But the car needs to be in the right setting for that system to automatically kick into place. The Suburban was not in the right setting. Gillian Christensen, deputy press secretary at ICE, declined an interview request for comments on the investigation and door lock dilemma.
She released a statement praising Zapata’s five years of service with the agency.