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Prosecutors recently sentenced a Texas man, Manuel Barba, for trafficking a weapon connected to the murder of Immigration and Customs (ICE) Agent Jaime Zapata. Nobody was more astonished to learn of the case than Zapata's parents, who didn't know that Barba had been arrested or linked to their son's murder.
In a related development, CBS News has obtained documents showing that Barba was under ATF surveillance for at least six months before a rifle he trafficked was used in Zapata's murder. Zapata's government vehicle was ambushed by suspected cartel thugs in Mexico Feb. 15, 2011.
Documents indicate ATF opened its case against Barba, entitled "Baytown Crew," in June of 2010. During the investigation, court records state Barba recruited straw purchasers and "facilitated the purchase and exportation of at least 44 firearms" including assault rifles. On August 20, 2010 Barba took delivery of the WASR-10 semi-automatic rifle later used in Zapata's murder, obliterated its serial number, and sent it to Mexico with nine others just like it. Nearly two months later, on Oct. 8, 2010, ATF agents recorded a phone call in which Barba "spoke about the final disposition of ... firearms to Mexico and also about the obliterating of the serial numbers before they were trafficked." Barba told straw purchasers the guns were destined for the Zeta drug cartel.
A warrant wasn't issued for Barba's arrest until four months later; coincidentally, the day before a rifle he trafficked was used against Zapata.
Barba is now the second weapons trafficker who had been under ATF surveillance to be linked to Zapata's murder. As CBS News previously reported, ATF had also been watching suspect Otilio Osorio during the time he trafficked a different weapon used in Zapata's assault.