Shanda Zapata’s mornings consist of getting her kids ready for school like any other mom; the rest of her day, however, is anything but normal. You would never guess what she does for a living.
The 35-year-old resident of Denver, Colorado is mother to four kids – two boys and two girls. Her eldest son, Skyler, is 17, followed by 11-year-old Keeley, her nine-year-old sister Journey, and their five-year-old brother Dominic.
When she talks about the difficulty of raising kids with different ages, it’s easy to mistake Zapata for just another hardworking mother. But, in reality, Zapata’s life has been far more extraordinary.
For example, Skyler was born when Zapata was only 18 years old. And if being a young mother weren’t a difficult enough task in itself, Zapata also had to battle colon cancer while looking after her infant son.
To make matters worse, Zapata’s cancer came back when she was 31. And even though she managed to beat it again, she didn’t have any medical insurance; the illnesses saddled her with a combined medical bill of $800,000.
Zapata quickly realized that as a waitress she had no hope whatsoever of paying off her huge debt. If she was going to provide for her kids, then, she needed to do something that would make a lot more money.
It’s around this time that Zapata saw a TV news report about bounty hunters – armed professionals that capture fugitives in return for a reward. She was intrigued by the occupation, and she decided to research it further.
One thing led to another, and after just six weeks of classes, Zapata became a full-time bounty hunter in 2013. Since then, she has also undergone continuous training alongside SWAT and police forces.
In addition, Zapata frequently practices her aim at an indoor shooting range, and she takes Brazilian jujitsu and Krav Maga classes for self-defense. The mother of four has said, “If someone threatens my life… I won’t hesitate to shoot and it won’t be to injure.”
The fact that the profession is overwhelmingly male does not seem to faze Zapata; she currently works alongside three men. And she has said that her gender has been both a blessing and a curse, because she is “respected and hated at the same time.”
On the one hand, Zapata feels that she has to work much harder than her male counterparts to get the same level of respect; on the other, though, there are also some advantages. The latter includes having used her feminine charm to lure fugitives into some trap at a bar or a hotel.
But considering the fact that the job entails a very real threat of death, gender issues are the least of her problems. Indeed, Zapata has been shot at, rushed at with a knife and attacked by dogs.
And while she has said that overcoming cancer twice has made her stronger, Zapata admits that the job is very stressful and full of danger. “You kiss your children not knowing whether that will be the last time you see them or not,” she told reporters.
And although Zapata’s younger children may not be old enough to comprehend their mother’s dangerous occupation, her eldest son, Skyler, is fully aware and has claimed that he often worries for her safety. But, at the same time, he knows that she is trained and has people watching her back.
After sending the kids off to school, then, Zapata begins by suiting up with all her gear and, most importantly, her weapons – an automatic assault rifle and a pistol. Next, she calls a bail bond agent to see if they have any new names to track down.
After picking up the file on the suspect, she goes to the local courthouse to get a mug shot and other information. Zapata’s typical targets range from drug dealers to biker gang members.
Although Zapata is understandably secretive when it comes to how she and her co-workers locate the criminals, she did share one simple method – looking them up on Facebook. And once the bounty hunters know where their target is, they will attempt to apprehend that person.
Bounty hunters are typically paid with a percentage of the bond set for the offender by the bond company. Zapata has said that she makes about 10 percent of this amount, which usually ranges from $10,000 to $20,000.
And Zapata is very proud of the work she does every day. She has said that she gets to “put away people that are dangerous,” all while proving that women are capable of pursuing such a traditionally male-dominated profession.
And, despite all the dangers, she has said that becoming a bounty hunter helped her find a purpose in life. After all her hardships, she said, she “managed to become somebody…” and gets to “help people and sort of be a badass” at the same time.