Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa, the some of two most recognizable critics of the Justice Department following the Fast and Furious scandal, are continuing to press Attorney General Eric Holder about controversial gun-walking tactics.
This time, they have questions about the 2011 murder of Jaime Zapata, an Immigration and and Customs Enforcement Agent.
Last week, news reports revealed that a second gun trafficker has been linked to the weapons found at the scene of Zapata’s death. Manuel Barba, of Texas, was sentenced to 100 months in prison last month after he pleaded guilty to the illegal exportation of firearms in October. Court documents show that he was under surveillance by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives about six months before a rifle he sold was found at the scene of the murder.
Zapata was killed Feb. 15, 2011, while driving an SUV with diplomatic plates along a highway in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. That month, Mexican authorities arrested six members of the Zetas gang in connection with the shooting. Fellow agent Victor Avila, Jr., was wounded in the incident.
Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to Holder Monday, demanding more information on the investigation of Barba.
The letter states that records show ATF began tailing Barba in June 2010. Grassley and Issa ask if the ATF had any contact with Barba between that time and Aug, 20, 2010, when he received the weapon that was traced to the scene of Zapata’s death.
“Why was Barba not arrested in October 2010 when the ATF obtained audio evidence that Barba was obliterating serial numbers before trafficking weapons to Mexico?” the letter states.
It goes on to point out that the lawmakers have sent letters to Holder about Zapata’s death in the past, with little cooperation from the DOJ or ATF, the letter states. In October, another Texas man, Otilio Osorio pleaded guilty to conspiring to make a false statement in firearms records and possession of weapons with a removed serial number. Prosecutors alleged that some of the weapons found at the scene of Zapata’s killing were traced back to Osorio.
In March 2011, Grassley wrote two letters to ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson inquiring about the Osorio investigation. In October, Grassley and Issa sent a joint letter to Holder asking more questions about the Osorio case.
“Failure to conduct surveillance of individuals known to be trafficking weapons to Mexico was a core problem with the tactics used in Fast and Furious,” Monday’s letter states. “Lack of surveillance is what allowed such firearms to reach the border. The same irresponsible tactic appears to have used in this matter.”