MEXICO CITY (AP) - The killing of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent and wounding of another in Mexico highlights the risk for American officials helping with Mexico's crackdown on organized crime under increasing cooperation between the two countries.
Special Agent Jaime Zapata, on assignment to the ICE attache office in Mexico City from his post in Laredo, Texas, died Tuesday when gunmen attacked the agents' blue Suburban vehicle as they drove through the northern state of San Luis Potosi.
The second agent is Victor Avila, according to U.S. officials who weren't authorized to speak on the case. He was shot twice in the leg and transported back to the United States, where he is in stable condition, according to an ICE statement Wednesday.
President Barack Obama expressed condolences Wednesday to Zapata's family.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the highest-profile attack on U.S. lawmen in Mexico since the 1985 torture and killing of DEA agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, won't change the U.S. commitment to supporting Mexico in its crackdown on organized crime.
"Let me be clear: any act of violence against our ICE personnel - or any DHS personnel - is an attack against all those who serve our nation and put their lives at risk for our safety," Napolitano said in a statement Tuesday. "We remain committed in our broader support for Mexico's efforts to combat violence within its borders."
U.S. and Mexican officials said they were working closely together to investigate the shooting and find those responsible.
The two agents were driving a four-lane, federal highway from Mexico City to the northern city of Monterrey on routine business and not as part of an investigation, said a U.S. federal law enforcement official who is not authorized to discuss the case publicly. ICE, the agency for immigration enforcement inside the U.S., also investigates drugs, money laundering and smuggling of weapons and other contraband in Mexico, according to former director Julie Myers.
The agents were stopped at what may have appeared to be a military checkpoint, according to one Mexican official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case. Mexican military officers said they had no checkpoints in the area.
After they stopped, someone opened fire on them, the official said.
It's not known whether the men were hit because they were law enforcement or because of the blue Suburban they were driving, a truck coveted by use for drug gangs. Texas missionary Nancy Davis shot to death last month in northern Mexico while traveling in a large 2008 Chevrolet pickup, and police believe the attackers were trying to steal the truck.