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On Friday March 3, four friends from South Carolina drove in a white minivan into Matamoros, a city caught between warring factions of the Gulf Cartel in Mexico, according to Yahoo! News.
As they battle for control of the plazas – the drug smuggling routes north into the US., the four friends were suddenly and unknowingly caught in the middle of a turf war.
Soon, they were kidnapped in a broad daylight attack carried out by multiple gunmen in the northern border city.
The FBI had said unidentified gunmen started firing at the four Americans’ vehicle shortly after it crossed into Mexico.
They were then taken from the scene by armed men. The entire ordeal would last for four days.
The Mexican government remains tight-lipped about the motive for the deadly attack, however, the attorney general’s office in the state of Tamaulipas said the theory that this was a case of mistaken identity was “strengthening.”
On Tuesday, Mexican and U.S. officials said two of the four U.S. citizens were found dead and two are alive.
The bodies of two Americans who were killed in an armed kidnapping in Mexico are expected to be returned to the US on Thursday, a source from the Mexico Attorney General’s Office told CNN, as the two survivors who were brought to a US hospital have yet to be released back to their families.
Mexico completes autopsy before US conducts its own
The remains of Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown will likely be transported to a funeral home in Brownsville, Texas, according to a US official familiar with the investigation.
The repatriation of the remains comes two days after the bodies were discovered alongside their two surviving friends in a house around the Mexican city of Matamoros.
Autopsies of the bodies were completed in Mexico Wednesday morning, according to an official from the Tamaulipas Prosecutor’s Office, though Mexican authorities have not released their causes of death.
A second autopsy will be performed once the remains are in the US, the US official said.
The deceased were part of a group who had driven into Matamoros on Friday so that one of them, Latavia Washington McGee, could undergo a cosmetic medical procedure, according to two family members.
But their trip was violently interrupted when unidentified gunmen began firing upon their van and then loaded the Americans into a vehicle and drove them away, the FBI said.
One of the survivors, Eric Williams, was shot three times in his legs, his wife, Michele Williams, told CNN.
When he and McGee were discovered alive on Tuesday, Williams was brought to a hospital in Texas to undergo surgery, she said.
Washington McGee was also brought to the hospital, her mother, Barbara Burgess, told CNN, though Mexican authorities said she was uninjured.
“She watched them die,” Burgess said, recounting what Washington McGee told her about the kidnapping.
“They were driving through and a van came up and hit them, and that’s when they started shooting at the car, shooting inside the van. … She said the others tried to run and they got shot at the same time.”
Mexican authorities have yet to clarify if shooting victims were suspected gang rivals
Yahoo! News reports Mexican officials wouldn’t comment on two specific suggestions – that a drug gang had confused them either for US-based rivals, Haitian drug gang members or people smugglers. But they said there were multiple and “diverse” lines of investigation, and that none was being ruled out at this stage.
Last year, over 100,000 people disappeared or missing in Mexico. Most kidnappings are carried out with complete impunity, particularly in the case of undocumented immigrants traveling north to the US, according to Yahoo! News.
Biden administration officials called the killings “unacceptable” — potentially escalating tensions around the already fraught issues of border security and U.S.-Mexico relations as authorities work to learn more about the circumstances of the incident.
A “Level 4-Do Not Travel” warning, the highest travel warning given by the State Department, is in effect for Tamaulipas state, where Matamoros is located.