by Sanya Mansoor and Nik Popli
Two of the four Americans who the FBI said went missing on Friday in an armed abduction in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico have been found dead, the Tamaulipas state governor said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. Governor Américo Villarreal said that of the two individuals alive, one was wounded and the other unharmed.
“Derived from the joint search actions, the four American citizens deprived of their liberty last Friday were found,” tweeted Tamaulipas Attorney General Irving Barrios. “Unfortunately, two dead. Investigation and intelligence work continue to capture those responsible. Details will be given later.”
Here’s what to know about the abductions, their identities, and how officials are responding.
What we know about their identities
The individuals were previously identified by a family member as a group of close friends who were driving from South Carolina and crossed the border from Brownsville, TX so that one of them, Latavia “Tay” Washington McGee, a 33-year-old mother of six, could undergo a tummy tuck procedure in the Mexican state. McGee was accompanied by Shaeed Woodard, Zindell Brown, and Eric James Williams but they never arrived for the Friday appointment.
The survivors, Eric James Williams and McGee, have returned to the U.S., their families said.
Williams’ wife, Michelle Williams, said the FBI told her that he had been shot three times in his legs.
Williams and McGee were transported to the Port of Entry in Brownsville where they are receiving hospital treatment, the FBI said in a statement.
The bodies of Woodard and Brown were reportedly to the U.S. on Tuesday, Mexican officials said.
McGee had previously gone to Mexico for a medical procedure two to three years ago, Burgess told CNN. Mexico has become an increasingly popular destination for medical tourism.
How were they kidnapped?
The group of friends had journey from South Carolina, crossing the border into Mexico from Brownsville, TX, in a white minivan. After crossing the border, they were attacked in the border city of Matamoros.
According to the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico, the attackers then moved the passengers to another vehicle and drove away from the scene.
A Twitter post on Friday appears to show the kidnapping, CBS reported on Monday. The video has not been officially verified.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday that the four Americans intended to buy medicine and got caught up in crossfire between armed groups.
The U.S. State Department has a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” warning for the Tamaulipas region because of high crime there.
“Criminal groups target public and private passenger buses, as well as private automobiles traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers and demanding ransom payments,” according to U.S. State Department guidance.
The U.S. Consulate in Matamoros issued a warning to its employees on Friday following the kidnappings.
How have U.S. and Mexican officials reacted?
The FBI, along with federal partners and Mexican law enforcement agencies, have said they are investigating the matter. The FBI had offered a $50,000 reward for the four’s return and the arrest of those involved.
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar said Monday that the kidnappings also resulted in the killing of an “innocent Mexican citizen.” Salazar did not offer further details.
Investigators believe the four were mistaken for Haitian drug smugglers by a Mexican cartel, a U.S. official familiar with the investigation told CNN.
John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said on Tuesday, “We offer our deepest condolences to the friends and families of those who were killed in these attacks.”
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday that the Department of Justice will do “everything in our power” to hold the perpetrators accountable.
López Obrador said one person has been arrested in connection with the kidnapping of four Americans.
“We continue to work every day towards peace and are very sorry that this has happened in our country,” he said. “We send our condolences to the victims’ friends and family and the American people.”
— ARMANI SYED CONTRIBUTED REPORTING
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Photo Information: Both Zindell Brown and Shaeed Woodard were found dead in a shack after being kidnapped at gunpoint in Mexico Twitter