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.
- July 30, 2010 – Morrison purchases Romarm, model WASR, 7.62 caliber rifle, from a federally licensed firearms dealer. [DoJ Press Release, March 1, 2011.]
- 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.