Matamaros, Mexico kidnapping: 4 Missing Americans were South Carolina mother and her friends who were traveling for a medical procedure, family members say



The four Americans who authorities say were abducted in Mexico on Friday were a tight-knit group of friends traveling from South Carolina, two family members told CNN, so one of them — a mother of six — may undergo medical procedures across the border, two family members told CNN.

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

On Sunday, Burgess said he was notified by the FBI that his daughter had been kidnapped and was in danger. “They said if she calls to call me,” he said.

Mexican authorities are still searching for the missing Americans, who fled to the border city of Matamoros on Friday, where they had been. opened fire by the unidentified gunman and was “placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men,” according to the FBI.

US Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar said an innocent Mexican bystander was also killed in the encounter.

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

The U.S. citizen has no criminal history that investigators have identified, the source said.

Zalandria Brown, Brown’s sister, told CNN that the group of friends, who bonded “like glue,” grew up together in South Carolina. He added, he and his brother are also close. “Zindel is like my shadow, he’s like my son, he’s like my hip bone. We’re tight that way.”

It was the second time Washington McGee, a mother of six, Her mother said she went to Mexico for a medical procedure. About two to three years ago, Burgess said, her daughter traveled across 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 are unapproved or unavailable in the US. but The CDC warns The growing trend can carry dangerous risks depending on the destination and facility, including infection and potential post-procedure complications.

A US official with knowledge of the investigation told CNN that receipts found in the group’s vehicle also indicated the Americans were in Mexico for medical procedures.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Monday that the group had crossed the border to “buy drugs” and assured that the “entire government” was working to resolve the matter.

Federal and local Mexican authorities are participating in efforts to find the missing Americans, Tamaulipas Attorney General Irving Barrios Mojica said Monday.

The White House and the US State Department are “closely monitoring” the matter, the spokesman said at a briefing on Monday.

“Such attacks are unacceptable. Our thoughts are with the families of these individuals and we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance,” White House press secretary Karyn Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday, adding that the State and Homeland Security departments are coordinating with Mexican officials. are

“We will continue to coordinate with Mexico and press them to bring those responsible to justice,” Jean-Pierre said.

CNN has reached out to the FBI, the Tamaulipas Secretary of the Office of Public Security and the Mexican Attorney General’s office for more information.

Washington McGee’s aunt, Mary McFadden, told CNN that when the family hadn’t heard from the group of friends by Sunday, they began searching online for any news related to their travel destination. Then, the family watched a video of McFadden showing his niece being kidnapped.

“We recognized him and his blonde hair,” McFadden said. He said he recognized his niece’s clothes from a live video that Washington McGee posted on Facebook on Friday.

“It happened in broad daylight. We don’t know if she is dead or alive. The last picture we saw, he was walking alive,” McFadden said.

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

A video obtained by CNN shows a woman and other unidentified people being loaded into a white pickup truck. CNN has confirmed that the video matches the incident but has not independently confirmed that it is the four Americans shown in the video.

The video shows the woman being dragged or pushed into the bed of the truck by two unidentified men as a third apparently armed man looks on. Videos show the three men then drag at least two limp people into the bed of the truck.

Additionally, photos obtained by CNN appear to show fragments of the scene where the situation took place, including a car believed to be driven by the Americans before being driven from the scene at gunpoint by another vehicle. collided with

According to the FBI in San Antonio, the American citizen was driving a white minivan with North Carolina plates.

The FBI would not confirm the authenticity of the photos, but CNN has georeferenced the images and confirmed their authenticity with a US official with knowledge of the investigation.

Two vehicles rest at a site in Matamoros, Mexico, that a U.S. official said are linked to missing Americans.

The photos also show a woman looking at three people lying on the ground outside a white minivan and then sitting next to her. All the doors of the van are open. It is unclear whether the four people in the photos are US citizens.

The woman is then seen being loaded into the bed of a white pickup truck, alongside which several people can be seen lying on the road, photos show.

A photo shows an ambulance arriving, but it’s unclear if medical aid was being provided.

Tamaulipas officials said investigators trying to locate the U.S. citizens and identify those involved in the alleged kidnapping are gathering surveillance footage, collecting ballistics and fingerprint evidence, taking biological samples for genetic profiles and processing the vehicles involved. are doing

Tamaulipas Attorney General, Barrios Mojica, said a joint task force of federal and state agencies has been formed to “process all information related to the case” and maintain constant communication with US authorities.

“Given the presumption that they are US citizens, a line of direct communication was established with US officials dedicated to exchanging information and locating them. This communication was directed to the state government, the Department of State and the United States Embassy in Mexico. In between are being done at a higher level,” Barrios Mojica said.

So is the FBI Requesting the public’s help In finding and identifying Americans Anyone involved in the incident. The agency has announced a $50,000 reward for the return of the victims and the arrest of those responsible.

Ongoing violence has affected some Mexican cities as they have become the backdrop for organized crime and drug-trafficking operations, which the country’s government has been battling since at least 2006.

Matamoros is a city in the state of Tamaulipas More than 500,000 people and is located just across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas. The city has recently been home to a large concentration of asylum-seeking migrants hoping to enter the US.

The US State Department has issued a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory for US citizens thinking of traveling to Tamaulipas, citing crime and kidnappings.

“Criminal groups target public and private passenger buses as well as private vehicles traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers and demanding ransom payments,” the State Department advisory says. .

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