Last week, four Americans were kidnapped in Matamoros, a Mexico border city. Tuesday morning, Mexico officials confirmed two of those Americans were dead.
“Approximately one hour ago we confirmed that the four Americans were located,” Tamaulipas state governor Americo Villarreal said in a phone call during President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s daily news conference. “Thirty-five minutes ago we got confirmation from the prosecutor’s office that of the four people, two were found dead, one wounded and one alive. Ambulances are rushing to the area to recover them and offer them medical care.”
A Mexican official said the Americans were found in the village of Tecolote, about 15 miles from where they were kidnapped on Friday.
According to the Washington Post, family members of the victims identified them. They said three victims were traveling with another who planned to undergo a tummy tuck cosmetic medical procedure.
Latavia “Tay” McGee, her cousin Shaeed Woodard and friends Zindell Brown and Eric James Williams traveled in a minivan with North Carolina plates. It was reported that when the group crossed the border from Brownsville, Tex., to Matamoros, they were fired on and abducted by unidentified assailants.
CNN reports that investigators believe they were targeted by a Mexican cartel that likely mistook them for Haitian drug smugglers.
“This is like a bad dream you wish you could wake up from,” Zalandria Brown told the Associated Press before the deaths were announced. Brown’s younger brother, Zindell Brown, was one of the victims.
The Post obtained video and photos of the scene, which shows armed men in protective vests forcing a woman into the back of a white pickup and then dragging three other people to the truck.
A fifth person can be seen lying on the sidewalk, apparently injured. The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, in a statement, confirmed an innocent Mexican citizen was killed during the abduction.
Christina Hickson, the mother of 28-year-old Zindell, told news outlets that she could identify him from footage of the kidnapping shared online.
“I was able to follow each one as they would be placed on the truck,” she said. “I knew immediately that was him.”
Zalandria Brown said, “to see a member of your family thrown in the back of a truck and dragged, it is just unbelievable.”
Barbara Burgess confirmed her daughter, Latavia McGee, was traveling from South Carolina to Mexico for a medical procedure and had not spoken to her since Friday when McGee called and said she was 15 minutes away from the doctor’s office.
“Her phone just started going to voice mail,” Burgess said.
Officials do not believe the victims were targeted before the encounter. There was no evidence they were linked to organized crime in Mexico, U.S. officials added; none of the four have criminal records.