Man Pleads Guilty to Attempted Murder of U.S. Consulate Official
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A California man pleaded guilty today to shooting a U.S. diplomat stationed at the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“The Vice Consul was targeted and shot because he represented the United States,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “No one should doubt the resolve of law enforcement to steadfastly investigate and apprehend those who attack us. I wish to express our sincere thanks to the many United States and Mexican law enforcement agencies involved in the apprehension and return of this defendant to the United States to face justice.”
According to admissions made in connection with his plea, on Jan. 6, 2017, Zia Zafar, 33, of Chino Hills, armed himself with a firearm, donned a wig and sunglasses to disguise his appearance, and waited in a parking garage for a Vice Consul, who worked at the U.S Consulate in Guadalajara. Although Zafar initially was following the Vice Consul as he walked towards his vehicle, Zafar noticed a security guard nearby, and instead moved to the vehicle exit ramp, where he waited for the Vice Consul to exit. As the Vice Consul approached the exit in his car, Zafar fired a single shot into the vehicle, striking the Vice Consul in his chest and leaving him in serious condition. Zafar admitted that he targeted the Vice Consul because he knew from earlier surveillance that the victim worked at the U.S. Consulate.
“Zia Zafar surveilled and targeted a U.S. official serving in Mexico, lying in wait before shooting him in the chest in a heinous act of premeditated violence,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan. “Today’s guilty plea sends a clear message that the Department of Justice will aggressively prosecute those who seek to harm U.S. officials serving overseas. The Department of Justice will continue work with our domestic and international partners to ensure that anyone who targets U.S. officials abroad will be brought to justice.”
“Crime doesn’t stop at international borders, as such, the FBI works closely with international partners and security services in order to conduct complex investigations and acquire evidence from abroad for criminal prosecutions in the United States,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Lasky of the Miami Field Office. “I want to thank the Mexican government for their full support and cooperation throughout this investigation.”
“This guilty plea makes a strong statement to those who would attempt to commit such a heinous crime. The Diplomatic Security Service is dedicated to ensuring those who commit these crimes are brought to justice,” said DSS Director Schurman. “Our global presence allows DSS to work with both U.S. and foreign law enforcement to stop criminals who would attempt to murder a U.S. citizen.”
Zafar pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder of an internationally protected person and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years for attempted murder, and a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, which will run consecutive to the attempted murder sentence. Zafar is scheduled for sentencing on November 7. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, John P. Cronan, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office, and Christian J. Schurman, Director of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald L. Walutes Jr. and Trial Attorney Jamie Perry of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section are prosecuting the case.
FBI and DSS investigated the case in close cooperation with Mexican authorities and with valuable assistance from the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
The Department of Justice gratefully acknowledges the government of Mexico, to include the Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, Procuraduria General de la Republica, Fiscalia del Estado de Jalisco and Instituto Nacional de Migracion for their extraordinary efforts, support and professionalism in responding to this incident.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:17-cr-55.