Patterico's Pontifications

3/29/2011

Should the ATF Have Prevented the Sale of the Gun that Killed ICE Agent Jaime Zapata?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:16 pm

A letter released by Charles Grassley yesterday (.pdf) shows that the gun that killed ICE Agent Jaime Zapata should never have been sold. The government has carefully crafted its story to imply that it became interested in the purchaser and his crime partners only after that gun was bought. Thus, they could not have stopped the purchase. Sen. Grassley’s letter makes it clear that is not true. I strongly suspected this after reading court documents last week, but it’s nice to see official confirmation.

I think the clearest way to present this information is in a timeline, which I have cobbled together from various sources, including Grassley’s letter, a DoJ press release, and documents in the Osorio criminal case, including the indictment and an affidavit:

  • July 29, 2010 – ATF agents observe a cache of weapons being loaded into a suspect vehicle, but do not maintain surveillance on that vehicle. [Grassley March 28 letter.]
  • Between July 10, 2010, and Nov. 4, 2010 – Kelvin Leon Morrison purchases 24 firearms from federally licensed firearms dealers. [DoJ Press Release, March 1, 2011.]
  • Between July 10 and August 13, 2010 – Ranferi Osorio, Otilio Osorio, and Morrison (and others) buy nine 7.62×39 caliber firearms and two .223 caliber firearms from a Texas dealer called The Gun Zone. [Osorio indictment.] (A criminal complaint against Morrison (.pdf) provides details on how he worked in concert with the Osorios to traffick firearms to Mexico.
  • Aug. 7, 2010 — Law enforcement officers seize the Romarm, model WASR, 7.62 caliber rifle that Morrison had purchased on July 30, along with 22 other AK-style firearms, en route to Eagle Pass, Texas. The firearms are seized from the very suspect vehicle that ATF agents had witnessed being loaded with weapons on July 29. Two of the other firearms were purchased by Ranferi Osorio. The rifle is seized in LaPryor, Texas, near the U.S./Mexico border. [DoJ Press Release, March 1, 2011; letter from Charles Grassley dated March 28, 2011.]
  • August 9, 2010 – Ranferi Osorio, Otilio Osorio, and Kelvin Morrison buy two 7.62×39 caliber firearms from B&S Guns. [Osorio indictment.]
  • August 14, 2010 – Ranferi Osorio, Otilio Osorio, and Kelvin Morrison buy two 7.62×39 caliber firearms from Southwest Ammunition Supply. [Osorio indictment.]
  • September 2, 2010 – Ranferi Osorio, Otilio Osorio, and Kelvin Morrison buy six 7.62×39 caliber firearms from CYA LLC. [Osorio indictment.]
  • October 10, 2010 – Otilio Osorio purchases a Romarm Draco 7.62 caliber pistol in Joshua, Texas, in the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex. (Affidavit in Osorio case.) (Remember this purchase, as this weapon is later associated with the death of a federal agent.) The seller later tells the that Osorio passed a background check and that the sale raised no red flags.
  • November 5, 2010 – ATF agents from Laredo, Texas request an unknown federal official or officials, apparently in Dallas, to provide a confidential informant to assist in a DEA/ATF investigation of sales of weapons to the Zetas cartel. [Osorio affidavit.]
  • November 9, 2010 – The CI meets with Ranferi and Otilio Osorio, who give the CI a shipment of 40 firearms with obliterated serial numbers. They discuss with the CI the fact that the firearms are to be trafficked to Mexico. The Osorios are surveilled, stopped, identified, and apparently let go. The weapons received by the CI are seized by federal agents and examined. [Osorio affidavit.] Whether they are kept in evidence or allowed to travel across the border is not clear. Nor is it clear whether the pistol purchased by Otilio Osorio on October 10, 2010 was among these firearms.
  • February 15, 2011 – ICE agent Jaime Zapata is killed in Mexico. Mexican officials seize three firearms used in the murder. One of them has an obliterated serial number, but the serial number is restored, and it is found to the be the pistol purchased by Otilio Osorio on October 10, 2010. [Osorio affidavit.]

Grassley says in his letter:

The DOJ’s press release gives the impression that law enforcement officials were unaware of Osorio’s activities in October 2010 when he allegedly purchased the weapon that was later used to kill Agent Zapata.

The press release leads the reader to believe that law enforcement had no reason to suspect Osorio was a straw purchaser until sometime between October 10 and early November, when he was the subject of the undercover operation.

Grassley then goes on to list many of the facts set forth in the above timeline, which show that the feds were (or should have been) onto the Osorios and Morrison well before November 2010. Grassley concludes: “All of these facts were apparently known to federal authorities contemporaneously, and yet none of them are included in the Justice Department’s craftily-worded press release.”

Indeed. Something smells rotten.

Many questions remain. Why were agents observing a cache of weapons being loaded into the suspect vehicle as early as July 29, 2010? Why were there no arrests immediately after the seizure of guns on August 7, 2010, including guns bought by Morrison and Ranferi Osorio? Why were the Osorios and Morrison allowed to buy weapons for weeks and months after the feds, on August 7, 2010, seized guns that had been purchased by Ranferi Osorio and Morrison? Given all the information already known about Ranferi Osorio and Kelvin Morrison, why did the sale of the pistol to Otilio Osorio in October 2010 move forward without an alert being triggered? What caused Laredo ATF to be interested in investigating the Osorios and Morrison in early November 2010? How long had Laredo ATF been investigating the Osorios and Morrison and why? Why was the Dallas operation initiated by Laredo, and does that investigation relate to the earlier observations, surveillance, and seizure(s) near the border? Was the gun used to kill Zapata part of the shipment that was delivered to the CI in November 2010? Was that gun allowed to “walk” into Mexico? Regardless of whether that gun was among those delivered to the CI, were those guns seized and taken into evidence, or allowed to “walk” — and is there a connection between what happened to those guns and the fact that the Osorios were not arrested that day? Why are there redactions on the affidavit filed in the Osorio case, and in the attachments to Grassley’s letter? Are those redactions legitimate or designed to hide the involvement of people from DoJ?

Questions abound. Answers are few. Grassley and Issa will have to keep demanding answers.

26 Responses to “Should the ATF Have Prevented the Sale of the Gun that Killed ICE Agent Jaime Zapata?”

  1. Whoops, had comments turned off there at first. That is now fixed.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  2. Were the “shoulds” on a buy one get one free sale?

    elissa (a32b69)

  3. 2011, not 2010

    February 15, 2010 – ICE agent Jaime Zapata is killed in Mexico

    tomhynes (daebd2)

  4. I gotta ask: what are the theories as to why this was allowed to go on for so long and to this degree?

    Bribery of some ATF officials? That’s my best guess. I can’t imagine even the most absurd administration would actually want this kind of a mess. I can see one being so weak in leadership that this kind of thing is allowed to occur, especially if it’s serving a political narrative leading to gun control, but I’m not seeing that as a sufficient explanation.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  5. tomhynes:

    Yes, 2011. Thank you.

    Patterico (9e4e32)

  6. I’m curious about this case; did the ATF place border states in more peril by leveraging their regulatory position over firearms dealers to push through sales to individuals that otherwise would have raised red flags, or are these sales only to suspected traffickers?

    Sean (ff2f3b)

  7. Okay – I’ll answer the question

    no, if they were acquired legally

    yes, if the purchasers were not able to legally purchase the guns

    WTF, if it was an unbelievably stupid sting operation – jail time

    EricPWJohnson (ae1588)

  8. elissa,

    Someone finally explained what you meant and I made the fix. You are too subtle for me!

    Patterico (c218bd)

  9. FFL’s are told, time after time, that if for any reason you are suspicious of the buyer, and the reason he wishes to purchase a weapon (we’re actually supposed to ask in some manner “why do you want to buy a gun”), the local ATF office should be notified while you attempt to hold the customer in the shop while “NICS” is processing his InstaCheck (this is one of the reasons that this whole idea of reporting multiple sales to ATF from stores in CA was nonsense, since in CA there is a State-mandated ten-day waiting period between purchase and transfer – if we’re suspicious we’ve got a virtual lifetime to get the ATF down on the case).

    The real questions are if any of these individuals had any disqualifying info that would have popped up in a NICS check, and did the ATF alter official records to allow sales to go through.

    There needs to be a Grand Jury convened by an Independent Counsel to look into the financials of every ATF agent in the South-West to see who has been on the take, and for how much.

    A Farmer John processing plant smells better than this mess.

    AD-RtR/OS! (ed4ae7)

  10. “I gotta ask: what are the theories as to why this was allowed to go on for so long and to this degree?”

    ATF and Obama/Holder wanted some reason to do another gun ban. They decided on the drug war in Mexico. But the facts were that a rather small percentage of the guns came for the US and the “purchase to crime” time was multiple years. So they set out to fix this by arranging for the mass smuggling of semi-auto rifles into Mexico.

    You’ll notice that not only are they not arresting the straw purchasers, the people transporting the guns into Mexico in are in fact ATF informers. So it’s not just that the ATF is allowing guns to be smuggled into Mexico, the ATF is actually DOING the smuggling, and presumably using their ICE liaison to ensure that their smugglers don’t get caught.

    Oh, and the guns they are smuggling are the ones that they claim they need extra special (and illegal) reports from FFLs on so they can stop people from smuggling.

    Kevin (7a61e2)

  11. Kevin, I did think it was very unusual that a .50 cal sniper rifle was being used in a crime.

    That’s a weapon the gun grabbers are often freaking out over, even though it’s practically never used by criminals.

    If the administration is really preparing for another round of anti gun legislation, the rest of the democrat party is being sacrificed (much as they were in 2010). I pray the democrats push gun control before the 2012 election. Please please please.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  12. In the cartel world, the .50BMG Barrett M-82 is bling, just as the Maxim MG was in the Revolution 100 years ago.

    AD-RtR/OS! (ed4ae7)

  13. That should be October 11. 2010. Unless I missed a birthday…

    Steven S. (866f07)

  14. Steven S. — I’m having a hard time with the years tonight!

    Thank you.

    Patterico (9e4e32)

  15. Imagine if this had happened while Bush was president. It would be the Bush plan and Bush’s ATF and Bush’s lack of oversight, etc.

    rdbrewer (a08f25)

  16. Kevin: It’s nice to see somebody else GETS IT!

    It’s important to note that according to the FFL Dealers involved, they were working as Confidential Informants for ATF, they called their “agent” every time they had a suspicious buyer, and every time they were told to proceed with the sales!

    Further, ATF Admits in various Docs that some buyers and some smugglers were also C.I.s.

    For the rest, this is the “official” story – based on what they admit (and what we’ve found out) the plan was as follows…

    (1) Have Dealers (working as C.I.s) sell guns to Straw-buyers (some of which were also C.I.s).
    (2) Allow buyers (Both C.I.s and not) to pass guns to smugglers (Both C.I.s and not). Videotape at least SOME of these transactions (if not all).
    (3) Allow smugglers (Unclear-Including C.I.s?) to move weapons into Mexico.
    (4) Not only hide all of this from the Mex.gov, but also block all access to all data about these guns to any ATF people in Mexico – including the “Attache” – the “top dog” ATF Agent in Mexico.
    (5) ??????????
    (6) Make big bust of Cartel “big-wigs”

    What is this – “The Underpants Gnomes”??!!

    PLEASE tell me this: WHAT COULD POSSIBLY HAPPEN at “(5)” to make “(6)” possible?

    How – PRECISELY – is this “bust” supposed to happen when there’s no surveillance of any smugglers, no way to “track” any of these guns at all — until they turn up near the bodies of some dead Mexicans (OR, as it turns out, US Agents!)!

    Given that the Mex.Gov was kept in the dark, all ATF Personnel in Mexico were kept in the dark, and even when the Attache – our #1 top-dog agent in Mexico tries to access “trace” data, (1) he finds he’s locked out and (2) is told to “mind his own business!”

    The conclusion is obvious: There is simply no way this could have led to any law-enforcement action against anyone in Mexico. NO WAY!

    So, we must ask “cui bono”! “Who Benefits?”

    Who benefits from flooding guns into Mexico, leading to a bunch of dead Mexicans?

    The answer is obvious: The same people who got caught LYING about this “crisis” the first time!

    Remember too — right before “Gunwalker” news broke, the ATF “leaked” a bunch of info to the WaPo, which led to a large series of articles denigrating the very dealers who had been cooperating with the ATF — a blatant attempt to make them appear to be responsible, and to justify running them out of business!

    As has been well documented, the reality 2 years ago was that the percentage of US-sourced weapons was very low.

    What you HAVEN’T been told is that these “US-Source guns” include *ALL* US-sourced guns — including the military weapons we gave or sold to the Mex.gov, and even the weapons we gave to Panama/El-Salvador/Nicaragua/etc even back in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s! (For more info on this, see http://narcosphere.narconews.com/notebook/bill-conroy/2011/02/pentagon-fingered-source-narco-firepower-mexico )!

    It SHOULD be obvious that the Mexi-Cartels aren’t getting full-auto M16s, Grenade-launchers and grenades, RPGs and other military-weapons from US gun-shows or dealers! So why are these weapons included in the statistics used to attempt to justify further abrogation of our rights??!!

    The *ONLY* logical conclusion – especially given the coordinated attack on the cooperating dealers – is that this was a false-flag op, designed to use dead Mexicans (and Americans too) to justify further restrictions on our 2A rights.

    Period.

    I welcome any evidence you may have to the contrary.

    Believe it or not, I’d really LIKE to be wrong about this!

    But I am not.

    I’ve studied this for months, and can come to no other conclusion.

    I welcome discussion – show me what I’ve misinterpreted, and I’ll HAPPILY admit I was wrong – but this will require explaining “step 5″ in the plan.

    I’m still waiting…

    Dedicated_Dad (73dbf6)

  17. “ATF and Obama/Holder wanted some reason to do another gun ban.”

    I don’t know who’s idea it was. But, I agree that that’s the general idea.

    I don’t think any other explanation really fits the facts.

    Kish put forward the idea, when we were talking about this a while back, that this was just arrant stupidity on the part of the government agents, but I stick to my original response to his proposition.

    Nobody’s that stupid…not even lefties.

    This was done on purpose, and I think the purpose was to justify more gun control in the USA.

    Dave Surls (88abfc)

  18. “Imagine if this had happened while Bush was president. It would be the Bush plan and Bush’s ATF and Bush’s lack of oversight, etc.”

    Bush was not real friend of gun owners, but he didn’t spend 8 year running a gun banning organization, which is what Obama did as a director of the Joyce foundation. Bush didn’t vote against every pro-gun piece of legislation in Texas, which is what Obama did in Illinois. Bush never supported banning “the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns” which is what Obama hand-wrote he supported on a 1996 candidate questionnaire.

    So yeah, I tend to believe that Obama would be willing to do whatever he had to do create a serious crisis so he could follow the plan of “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

    Kevin (7a61e2)

  19. More guns, less crime. Period.

    Kevin Stafford (abdb87)

  20. Kevin, I’m talking about media treatment of the story.

    rdbrewer (a08f25)

  21. The American federal government is a pack of criminals and the majority of Americans that still trust them a pack of fools! GUN CONTROL? How about controlling the guns in the hands of the biggest most powerful crime syndicate, the feds?

    Tomas Estrada-Palma (cb345a)

  22. While it is possible that this was an attempt by Bam-Bam, Holder or another of our enemies in the government to justify 2A restrictions, I suspect there are other reasons. The BATF whistle-blowers seem to think that it was an attempt to make a big bust, with the cynical sideshow that every gun that gets into Mexico is a good reason to increase the BATF budget. They were told the former, and believed the latter. I suspect that someone got paid. The endemic corruption of Mexican law enforcement is making its’ way across the border. Check this out;

    http://www.examiner.com/drug-cartel-in-national/alleged-cartel-assassin-most-wanted-fugitive-released-on-bail

    Jerome (6249ee)

  23. Why where these gun runners allowed to continue?
    Because they are a small bit part in an agenda by obama and his ilk to paint my country, America, as a blood thirsty republic out of control, full of gun brandishing bitter white racists, whose constitutional liberty to bear arms against the rule and tyranny of the left has to be abolished.

    Last year the guys at Sipsey Street Irregulars, http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/ exposed the entire scheme of lies and crimes behind this usurpation of the rule of law. They are the ones who protected the ATF whistleblowers from retribution of their superiors, they are the guys who brought Senator Grassley. For a proper primer on the timeline, A journalist’s guide to ‘Project Gunwalker’: http://www.examiner.com/gun-rights-in-national/a-journalist-s-guide-to-project-gunwalker posted by David Codera, one of the guys behind all the hard work and investigative journalism of the truth.

    Mt Top Patriot (bf65e5)

  24. MT Patriot,

    I’m sure Patterico would agree with you that Codrea and the Sipsey Street Irregulars deserve credit for exposing this since he said that and linked them yesterday.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  25. [...] has a timeline of events pieced together from different legal [...]

    SayUncle » ATF and guns in Mexico (bf7625)

  26. [...] gun sales to Mexican gangsters, as part of a harebrained scheme to see where the guns ended up. One of the guns was used to kill a US Border Patrol [...]

    Project Gunrunner « Internet Scofflaw (aea5df)


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