Posted: Feb 17, 2012 8:50 AM
Updated: Feb 17, 2012 2:57 PM
BROWNSVILLE - ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata is never far from his parents' thoughts. The Zapata family sat down with CHANNEL 5 NEWS to talk about their son. One year ago, their son was killed in the line of duty in Mexico. A year later, they say they still don't know what happen.
Amador and Mary Zapata say on February 15, 2011 their lives changed forever. They said they remember that day clearly. They were relaxing at home.
Mary Zapata says she was in her bedroom when her husband came in and told her Jamie was killed. In the shock and disbelief, Mary Zapata questioned the news.
"Are you sure it's Jaime? Because Jaime was suppose to be in Mexico City, not traveling to other cities," Mary asked.
Jaime Zapata and his partner Victor Avila were gunned down on a highway in San Luis Potosi. They were assigned to Mexico City. Zapata's parents never imagined their son's embassy assignment could go so wrong. He worked in Mexico for only nine days.
Mary Zapata says in her last conversation with her son, he told her about the places he wanted to visit. She encouraged him to enjoy the time there.
In the hours after the shooting, Mary Zapata says her son's partner, Victor Avila, wounded and in pain, called and told them about the last hours of Jaime's life.
"Apparently they had left Mexico to San Luis. Jaime was talking about his girlfriend, family, having a good conversation getting to know each other. It was the first time Victor and him had been together," Mary Zapata said.
The Zapatas say the months since the shooting have been difficult. They say it gets into their minds, making it hard to sleep at night.
"Every day, we think about our son. We wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the tragedy he must have gone through, his last moments," said Mary.
Precious moments are found in memories too.
"On a good day, we talk about the good things, the good times we had with Jaime. We talk about the jokes and the fun time we had. He loved to go fishing. He loved to barbecue. We had many of those good times," said Mary Zapata.
There are times they believe their is with them. During a recent visit they made to Jaime's gravesite with his nephew, the 4-year-old recited the prayer on his tombstone. Two weeks later, they took him again. They asked the boy to read it again and he said he couldn't. They say times like these help to heal their hurt. Mary Zapata says answers to their questions would help too.
"What happened to Jaime was unjust, unfair, uncalled for. He was a good person. He had a big heart and wouldn't harm anybody," said Mary.
The Zapatas told usthey want answers. They want to know why he was sent on that journey. They want to know what was so important that he had to expose his life in what we know is a war zone.
Mary Zapata said there's still no answers a year later.
"The person they sentenced last week, the man with the last name Barba. I didn't know about it until I read it in an e-mail," she recalled.
The family also wasn't aware of the sentencing of two north Texas brothers. The weapon used to kill Jaime Zapata was traced back to one of them.
An alleged Zeta member, Julian Espinoza-Zapata also known as "El Piolin," who confessed to the shooting, is now in custody in the U.S. He awaits trial.
The Zapatas says they want to be at his trial.
"I want to be there. I want to see him face to face. I want to ask him why he killed my son," Mary Zapata said.
Amador says his son's killing was uncalled for. He calls it a cowardly act. They want all the suspects brought to justice.
The Zapata family said through their tragic time, the support from the community, law enforcement and personnel from Washington D.C. lifted their spirits.
"In light of the fact of what happened to know Jaime was honored as a hero, makes us proud," said Mary Zapata.
The family has set up the Jaime Jorge Zapata Foundation in his memory. The money will be used to further careers in law enforcement especially among under-privileged youth.
The Zapatas say it's one way Jaime's legacy will live on.