Two of the four Americans who were shot by gunmen and kidnapped shortly after crossing the border into northern Mexico for a medical procedure last week are dead, and the two survivors are back on US soil, they said Tuesday. Mexican and US officials.
The governor of the state of Tamaulipas. Américo Villarreal said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that the two survivors were a woman and a man. The woman, identified only by the governor as LaTavia, was found unharmed. The man, whose first name is Eric, had a gunshot wound to the leg, Villarreal said.
Both were taken to a clinic for medical treatment and returned to the United States via an international bridge between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas, before noon Tuesday, he said.
A 24-year-old man from Tamaulipas, identified only as José N, “was found guarding the victims” and was arrested, according to Villarreal. The charges against the man were unclear.
The governor announced the victims by phone at a presidential press conference Tuesday morning.
At a State Department briefing on Tuesday, spokesman Ned Price confirmed that the two survivors had returned to the United States, adding that “we are working to repatriate the remains of the two Americans who died in this incident.” He said the United States is providing assistance to the victims and their families.
What we know about the discovery of the victims
The Americans were found Tuesday morning in a wooden house near an area called La Lagunona in Matamoros, Villarreal said Tuesday.
Attorney General Irving Barrios Mojica he tweeted early Tuesday that the four Americans were found by “joint search actions.”
Villarreal said that at the time the Americans were abducted they had been transported to various locations, including a clinic “to create confusion and disrupt rescue efforts.”
An investigation is continuing to catch other suspects involved in the case, he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, offered his condolences to the victims, saying: “We are very sorry that this has happened in our country and we send our condolences to the families of the victims, friends and the government of the United States, and we will continue to do our job to ensure peace and tranquility,” he said.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday that the Justice Department is “working closely” with the State Department. He offered his condolences to the families of the victims.
“During this difficult time, I want to offer my deepest condolences to the families of the Americans who were attacked and kidnapped,” Garland said.
A trip for medical care gone wrong
The FBI had been offering a $50,000 reward for the safe return of US citizens.
The group was kidnapped Friday after driving to Matamoros, Tamaulipas, just south of Brownsville, Texas.
Dramatic video showing a gunman dragging people into a white van captured the kidnapping as it unfolded, a police source with knowledge of the matter confirmed.
One of the victims was identified as LaTavia Washington McGee by her cousin, Aliyah McCleod, who is acting as a spokesperson for the family.
On Tuesday, LaTavia’s mother, Barbara Burgess, confirmed that her daughter is alive and said she spoke with her.
McCleod also identified another member of the group as Shaeed Woodard.
McCleod said the group is from South Carolina and was traveling in a rental vehicle with North Carolina plates when they entered Matamoros. The FBI confirmed that the group was traveling in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates.
McCleod said the group had traveled to Mexico for a “medical procedure.”
A law enforcement official with knowledge of the matter said a woman in the group had been seeking a cosmetic medical procedure. The official said that cartel hitmen had targeted the group in a case of mistaken identity.
Zalandria Brown of Florence, South Carolina, said The Associated Press that his younger brother, Zindell, was among the four victims. She said that she had been in contact with the FBI and local officials after learning that her brother had been kidnapped.
“This is like a bad dream you wish you could wake up from,” he told the news agency. “To see a member of your family thrown in the back of a truck and dragged away, it’s just unbelievable.”
Brown said her brother, who lives in Myrtle Beach, had been on the trip to accompany a friend who was traveling to Mexico for a procedure.
She also said her brother had some reservations about them making the trip because of the potential dangers in Mexico.
“Zindell kept saying, ‘We shouldn’t go down,'” Brown told the AP.
At a press conference in Washington on Monday, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration was “closely monitoring the assault and kidnapping of four US citizens.”
“These kinds of attacks are unacceptable,” he said, adding that US law enforcement was in contact with Mexican authorities, as were the Departments of State and Homeland Security.
“We will continue to coordinate with Mexico and press them to bring those responsible to justice,” Jean-Pierre said.
Ken Salazar, the US ambassador to Mexico, said in a statement Monday that an “innocent Mexican citizen was tragically killed” during the kidnapping.
President López Obrador told a news conference that the Americans were in Mexico to buy medicines, a common practice for people looking for cheaper medicines on the southern border.
The Department of State has a “not travel” current warning for the state of Tamaulipas due to “crime and kidnapping”. He said organized crime activity, including shootings, armed robberies and kidnappings, are common along the border and in Ciudad Victoria.
“Criminal groups target public and private passenger buses, as well as private automobiles traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers and demanding ransom payments,” the warning reads.