FLEOA Stands Up for ICE HSI Agents Zapata & Avila

FLEOA Stands Up for Hero ICE HSI Agents Zapata and Avila, Enhanced Protections for LEOs Serving Overseas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                           May 15, 2020 


WASHINGTON, DC- Today Larry Cosme, National President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), issued the following statement on the organization’s efforts to ensure justice for Hero ICE HSI Special Agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila through yesterday’s introduction in the House and Senate of the bipartisan "Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act.” FLEOA played a key leadership role in the development of this important legislation to fix a dangerous circuit split recently created by a panel of judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in which it overturned the convictions of two members of the Los Zetas drug cartel responsible for carrying out the 2011 attack on Agents Zapata and Avila. In its decision, the D.C. court broke with several other Districts in ruling that the murder of a federal employee overseas could not be prosecuted under §1114 of Title 18, U.S. Code, in the United States due to a lack of language explicitly provided extraterritorial jurisdiction. This decision upended decades of federal court precedent and the will of Congress.

"When Special Agents Zapata and Avila were deployed to Mexico to combat the drug cartel trade nine years ago, they went willingly with the understanding that they had the full backing and support of the federal government. After the heinous and premeditated attack, in which these drug traffickers fired over 100 rounds at Special Agents Zapata and Avila, the U.S. government lived up to its obligation by seeking their extradition by the Mexican Government and prosecution in federal court. It took seven years, but eventually those responsible were convicted and received varying sentences up to and including double life imprisonment. We took this attack personally, because Jaime and Victor were not only our brothers in law enforcement, they were also our friends and fellow FLEOA members. But despite the years of effort by FLEOA, the Justice Department, and Department of Homeland Security to convict these drug trafficking assassins, they eventually found a court willing to upend decades of precedent and ignore the clear intent of Congress in overturning their lawful convictions.” 

"That is why we were proud to work with a bipartisan and bicameral group of legislators on the introduction of the ‘Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act.’ This legislation affirms what the American people and Congress intended when they pass federal laws meant to protect those federal employees serving our nation overseas, and often in very dangerous environments. It is entirely fitting that this bill be introduced during National Police Week, and FLEOA would like to thank Senators John Cornyn, Chris Coons, Tom Cotton, and Patrick Leahy, and Representatives Henry Cuellar, Peter King, and Mike McCaul for seeing the court’s egregious error and being willing to take a stand to right this blatant wrong."

"Our mission with this bill is to ensure every federal law enforcement officer and employee sent overseas knows that the federal government has their back and, if something happens, will vigorously pursue justice for them. We also want to ensure that the justice both the Zapata and Avila families had is not undone by a rogue court decision.”

Cosme also extended FLEOA’s appreciation to the American Foreign Service Officers Association, FBI Agents Association, National Fraternal Order of Police, National District Attorneys Association, National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys, National Association of Police Organizations, Major City Chiefs Association, NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association, and the Women in Federal Law Enforcement for supporting these efforts and this important legislation.

FLEOA is the nation’s largest non-partisan, not-for-profit professional association representing more than 28,000 federal law enforcement officers and agents across 65 federal agencies.