02/28/11 – US law enforcement officials have decided to honor the memory of Special Agent Jaime Zapata, a US ICE agent who was shot to death earlier this month in Mexico, and Special Agent Victor Avila, who was wounded in the same incident, by initiating a series of raids known as “Operation Fallen Hero.” These tragic incidents have encouraged coordination between Houston, Texas federal, state, and local law enforcement officials to take aggressive action against Mexican drug cartels and their associates who operate across the United States. Zapata’s slaying marks the highest profile attack on U.S. authorities in Mexico since the 1985 kidnapping and killing of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. This nationwide effort has also spread to Central American countries like El Salvador and Panama, along with Colombia and Brazil.
The nationwide sweep which began last Wednesday February 23 has made enormous progress in just a few days. By Thursday evening of last week, thousands of law enforcement officers nationwide had seized at least $8 million in cash and nearly 20 guns, and confiscated at least 23 pounds of methamphetamine, 107 kilograms of cocaine, 5 pounds of heroin and 300 pounds of marijuana at several hundred locations. In Houston alone, about $750,000 in U.S. currency was seized along with 322 pounds of marijuana, 13 kilograms of cocaine, 37 weapons, 10 vehicles, and the arrest of 33 individuals. In a press release last Thursday, Thomas Hinojosa, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Houston Division, Drug Enforcement Administration, was quoted saying that, “the DEA, and all of our law enforcement partners, will continue to aggressively disrupt and dismantle the ruthless drug trafficking organizations and their partners in crime who are operating on both sides of the Texas/Mexico border.”
In San Diego and Spring Valley, the aggressive sweeps have led to the arrests of 8 men who are believed to have ties to Mexican drug cartels. According to the San Diego Union Tribune, three of the men who have been identified as Christopher Uribe, Franco Dominguez and Victorino Partida, appeared in federal court in San Diego last Thursday afternoon on charges of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Four others, whose names are Shiny Star Gonzalez, John Luna, Juan Felix, and Roman Vegas, were arrested on suspicion of various drug-related charges and booked into county jails. The name of the eighth person arrested was not released. All 8 of these men will be questioned about the series of events that took place on the 15th that led to Zapata’s death. In addition to the arrests made in San Diego, more than 200 people have been taken into custody due to raids in cities including Atlanta, St. Louis, Denver, Detroit, San Antonio, Chicago, Miami, and Newark, N.J.