It sure seems like there was gun-walking going on in Texas, and yet U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder won’t answer any questions about it. The fourth member of a Dallas-area gunrunning ring that was observed for months by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) while the men bought and sold the gun that ultimately killed Laredo ICE Agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico last year was sentenced to seven years in prison Monday. U.S. District Court Judge Sam Lindsay handed down the sentence in Dallas Monday after Otillio Osorio plead guilty to conspiracy and other charges relating to a gunrunning network.
Osorio was the last of the group to be sentenced after his brother, Ranferi Osorio, received a 10-year prison term in March for running the network. Their accomplices Kelvin Leon Morrison, 26, and Luis Carbajal, 23, received two and a half years in prison and two years of probation respectively for conspiring to buy guns from licensed dealers using false statements, which the dealer is lawfully required to record and store.
Though the firearms charges are not directly related, the Osorios supplied the gun that was ultimately used to shoot and kill Laredo ICE agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico in February of last year. ICE Agent Victor Avila, also from Texas, was shot and wounded in that attack, which occurred on a stretch of highway between Mexico City and San Luis Potossi.
There is alarming evidence to suggest that Agent Zapata was the victim of an unauthorized ATF gun-walking program gone awry, much like the one that was exposed in Arizona last year, Operation Fast & Furious. Federal records show agents were watching the Osorio brothers sell a 40-gun load to an informant at a store parking lot in Lancaster, Texas. They allowed the Osorios to drive away after the deal.
Agent Tom Crowley, spokesman for the ATF in North Texas, told Dallas affiliate CBS11 in February that arresting the brothers then would’ve risked blowing a larger investigation. A gun-walking operation, perhaps? Gun-walking is when law enforcement officials allow illegal guns to enter Mexico so they can allegedly follow them to the bad guys. In the case of Fast & Furious, however, more than 1,000 guns were lost and ended up at crime scenes, including that of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, who was shot and killed while patrolling the Arizona desert last year, and, you guessed it, at the murder of ICE Agent Jaime Zapata.
“There was a stop, but it was also a part of another federal law enforcement operation,” Crowley said. “By taking them down and arresting them at that time would have possibly jeopardized that investigation.”
Attempts to find out from U.S. Attorney General Holder whether a Fast & Furious type program was occurring in Texas have gone largely unanswered, prompting congressional Republicans to consider holding Holder in contempt. The latest word, however, is that the Repubs are slowing down that effort because it’s too risky in an election year. And, that, America, is your tax money at work.