CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Two out of the four Americans kidnapped in Mexico found dead

Mar 7, 2023, 8:36 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2023, 5:39 pm

The governor of Tamaulipas, Américo Villarreal, confirmed this Tuesday that two of the four Americ...

A member of the Mexican security forces stands next to a white minivan with North Carolina plates and several bullet holes, at the crime scene where gunmen kidnapped four U.S. citizens who crossed into Mexico from Texas, Friday, March 3, 2023. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the four Americans were going to buy medicine and were caught in the crossfire between two armed groups after they had entered Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, on Friday. (AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

Originally Published: 07 MAR 23 05:10 ET
Updated: 07 MAR 23 10:10 ET

(CNN) — The governor of Tamaulipas, Américo Villarreal, confirmed this Tuesday that two of the four Americans kidnapped in Mexico were found dead.

During a phone call at President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s morning press conference, the governor said that of the four people kidnapped, two were found dead, one person is injured and the other is “alive.”

The four Americans kidnapped in Mexico on Friday were a close-knit group of friends traveling from South Carolina so that one of them – a mother of six – could undergo a medical procedure across the border, two relatives told CNN.

Latavia “Tay” Washington McGee, 33, traveled to Mexico with Shaeed Woodard, Zindell Brown and their friend Eric to have the procedure but never made it to the doctor’s appointment Friday, her mother Barbara Burgess told CNN.

On Sunday, Burgess said that she was informed by the FBI that her daughter had been kidnapped and was in danger. “They told me that if he called me to call them,” she said.

There are 4 Americans kidnapped in Mexico: what do the authorities know?

The missing Americans arrived by car in the border city of Matamoros and were shot by an unidentified gunman and “put into a vehicle and driven away by armed men,” according to the FBI.

An innocent Mexican bystander also died in the attack, according to statements by the US ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar.

Investigators believe the Americans were mistakenly targeted by a Mexican cartel that likely mistook them for Haitian drug traffickers, a US official familiar with the ongoing investigation told CNN.

The US citizens had no concerning criminal records that have been identified by investigators, the source said.

The group of friends — who were “glue” together — grew up together in South Carolina, Brown’s sister, Zalandria Brown, told CNN.

Four Americans kidnapped in Matamoros, Mexico

“Zindell is like my shadow, he is like my son, he is like my hip bone. We are that close,” the sister said.

This was the second time Washington McGee had gone to Mexico for a medical procedure, her mother said. About two or three years ago, Burgess said, her daughter traveled to the country for surgery.

Mexico has become a popular destination for “medical tourism,” attracting travelers who may be looking for cheaper alternatives or medical treatments that aren’t approved or available in the U.S. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention The CDC warns that this growing trend can carry dangerous risks depending on the destination and the center, such as infections and possible complications after the procedure.

Mexico vows to find kidnapped Americans in Matamoros 0:59

The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said Monday that the group had crossed the border to “buy medicine.”

López Obrador added that “the entire government” is working to resolve the case, adding that he hopes there will be more details soon.

Mexican and US authorities have released few details about how the kidnappings unfolded, but footage obtained by CNN appears to show fragments of the scene where the kidnapping took place.

Footage obtained by CNN shows the vehicle the Americans are believed to be traveling in collided with another van before they were led away at gunpoint.

The FBI declined to confirm the authenticity of the images, but CNN has geolocated it and confirmed its authenticity with a US official with knowledge of the investigation.

The footage shows a woman watching and then sitting next to three people lying on the ground outside a white van. All the van doors are open. It is not clear if the four people who appear in the images are US citizens.

Next, the woman appears to have been lifted onto the bed of a white van, next to which several people are seen lying on the street, the images show.

A photo shows that an ambulance arrived, but it is unclear if medical attention was provided.

Video also obtained by CNN shows a woman and other unidentified people being roughly loaded into a white van. CNN has confirmed that the video matches the incident, but has not independently confirmed that it is the four Americans in the video.

US Department of State, pending news on the kidnapping of 4 Americans 0:37

The video shows the woman being pulled or pushed into the bed of the truck by two unidentified people as a third man, visibly armed, watches. The three men then appear to drag at least two people onto the bed of the truck, video shows.

Mary McFadden, Washington McGee’s aunt, told CNN that, hearing nothing from the group, the family began searching the Internet for news from the area where the friends had traveled. That’s when they found a video of McGee being kidnapped.

“We recognized her and her blonde hair,” McFadden said. She also recognized her niece’s clothing from a live video that Washington McGee had posted to Facebook early Friday.

“This happened in broad daylight. We don’t know if she is alive or dead. In the last image we saw, she was walking around alive.”

“She’s a mother and we need her to come back here for her children,” she said, adding that McGee’s children range in age from 6 to 18.

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Two out of the four Americans kidnapped in Mexico found dead