WASHINGTON – The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) honored Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila, former Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, during a local ceremony on May 11. The commemoration coincided with National Police Week, an annual recognition held each May for law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Larry Cosme, National President of the FLEOA, presented a signed copy of The Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Law Enforcement Protection Act to Patrick J. Lechleitner, Deputy Director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Steve K. Francis, Acting Executive Associate Director for HSI.
Special Agents Zapata and Avila were deployed to Mexico in 2011, helping investigate and dismantle narcotics smuggling into the U.S. The two were attacked by drug cartels in San Luis Potosi, Feb. 15, 2011. Zapata died from injuries sustained, and although perpetrators were apprehended, a federal appeals court dismissed the murder convictions due to a lack of jurisdiction over crimes committed against law enforcement officials stationed overseas.
“We never forget our fallen – special agent Zapata will be forever remembered for protecting and serving this great nation – and now, with last year’s passing of instrumental legislation, he and Avila are forever honored by having their name tied to a law that ensures crimes committed against Americans serving internationally can be prosecuted, and that those associated criminals can be brought to justice,” said Lechleitner.
“Each Police Week, we take time to remember and honor the law enforcement we have lost. Today, we give HSI a copy of the bill to honor the memory of Special Agent Zapata and the sacrifice of Special Agent Avila and express our gratitude for HSI’s partnership to ensure justice is available for all those who risk their safety for the safety of our country. A copy of the bill will remain at HSI so all law enforcement and employees who pass know their government will stand by them if tragedy strikes,” stated Cosme.
The act named after Zapata and Avila, which now clarifies that federal officers and employees serving overseas are protected, and that attackers can be tried in a U.S. court of law, was formally signed by President Joseph Biden on Nov. 18, 2021.
“While it took nearly a decade to see this vision fully realized, the passing of this legislation was a tremendous victory for the families and loved ones of Zapata and Avila,” said Francis. “Today’s commemoration is our affirmation that we have not forgotten these heroes, and a stronger reminder that HSI will not condone acts of violence against its citizens or law enforcement officials, whether serving at home or abroad.”
HSI is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 Special Agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
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