Update: U.S. citizens kidnapped in Mexico have been identified
A reward of $50,000 is offered for the safe return of these 4 Americans kidnapped while crossing the Mexican border on Friday as Mexican law enforcement takes action
Four Americans were kidnapped after crossing the border from Texas to Mexico on Friday, as reported previously by the Deseret News.
The group from South Carolina included 33-year-old Latavia Washington McGee and her close friends Shaeed Woodard, Zindell Brown and Eric James Williams. All drove together into Matamoros, Mexico, in a white van with North Carolina plates for a medical procedure.
Barbara Burgess, the mother of McGee, contacted the police when her daughter missed her doctor’s appointment on Friday, per CNN. McGee is the mother of six kids who range in age from 6 to 18 years old.
Zalandria Brown has also been in contact with the FBI after learning that her brother was one of those kidnapped, per The Associated Press.
“This is like a bad dream you wish you could wake up from,” she told AP. “To see a member of your family thrown in the back of a truck and dragged, it is just unbelievable.”
On Sunday, the U.S. government offered a reward of $50,000 for the safe return of the citizens and the identification of the kidnappers.
Soon after crossing into Matamoros, the van came under attack with gunfire from an unknown gunman and all four Americans were pulled from the car and put in the back of a vehicle, said the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.
The AP reported that a video posted on social media showed the incident happening in broad daylight by men in tan body armor with assault weapons driving a white pickup truck. Of the four Americans one can be seen sitting up, while the others were laying on the ground — only one other lifted their head.
An innocent Mexican bystander was killed in the confrontation, per USA Today.
The group was said to have been traveling for someone in the group to get a medical procedure, per CNN. “Medical tourism” has attracted travelers to the area in the past but has since become more dangerous as the Gulf drug cartel has set up headquarters there.
A travel advisory for the Matamoros area is under effect for “crime and kidnapping” where “heavily armed members of criminal groups” patrol often near the border.