Two drug cartel hitmen get life in prison for murder of ICE agent

ICE-HSI Special Agent Jaime Zapata was killed in Mexico 2011 during an ambush by Los Zetas cartel members. Photo by ICE

Nov. 7 (UPI) — Two Mexican hitmen working for the Los Zetas drug cartel were each sentenced to two terms of life in prison Monday for the murder of an American federal agent and the attempted murder of another in Mexico.

Jose Emanuel Garcia Sota, 36, and and Jesus Ivan Quezada Piña, 29, were convicted by jury on July 27 of the 2011 murder and attempted murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the attempted murder of ICE-HSI Special Agent Victor Avila.

According to prosecutors, Garcia Sota and Quezada Piña were members of two Los Zetas hit squads and were on the lookout to steal vehicles near Mexico City for gang purposes on Feb. 15, 2011. Zapata and Avila were in the area on U.S. government business and driving around in an armored Chevrolet Suburban, and the two hitmen ambushed the agents’ vehicle with handguns and semiautomatic assault weapons, including AK-47 and AR-15 type assault rifles.

Zapata, 32, was killed during the attack. He was the first U.S. federal agent killed in Mexico in the line of duty since 1985.

Avila, then 38, was wounded.

“The sentences handed down today should serve as a powerful message to drug cartels and other transnational criminal organizations that there is no escape from justice, and that we will not rest until they have been held accountable for their crimes to the fullest extent of the law,” said ICE Acting Director Homan. “We remain grateful to the government of Mexico, the Department of Justice, and all our partners involved in sending these murderers to prison.”

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