SALT LAKE CITY — The Mexican government must track down the drug cartel gunmen who massacred three mothers and six children in northern Mexico who have family ties to Utah, Sen. Mitt Romney said Tuesday.
”It’s moms and children. This is really unthinkable. And I agree with the president when he says Mexico has to really knuckle down and go after some of these cartels and stop this escalating level of violence,” the Utah Republican told reporters in Washington.
Romney said he doesn’t know a motive for the killings but would be surprised if the families were targeted. He said he thinks it’s much more likely “something associated with the business of the cartels,” adding no one will know until an investigation is done.
In a Senate hearing Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the agency has reached out to Mexican authorities to help investigate. He said he also intends to have the FBI’s Victim Services Division offer assistance to family members in the United States.
“We, too, are troubled and deeply heartbroken about the loss,’’ he said at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday.
Wray appeared before the panel to talk about threats to the U.S. Several senators, including Romney, brought up Monday’s deadly attack about 5 miles outside La Mora, a decades-old settlement in the state of Sonora founded by early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, about 70 miles south of Douglas, Arizona.
“These victims have relatives from Arizona and my state is hurting right now,” Sen. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., said.
Sinema asked Wray if the FBI would play a role in bringing the perpetrators to justice and ensuring the families receive some redress.
Wray said the FBI’s involvement depends on the willingness of Mexican authorities to bring the agency in.
“That is something that is still being worked out. It is fluid situation as we sit here. I don’t know exactly what our footprint will look like,” he said.
Romney noted in the hearing that President Donald Trump offered support to help the Mexican government determine what happened. Romney said he appreciates the FBI and Homeland Security being willing to be part of the investigation and hopes they will “find a way to bring people to justice who deserve to be brought to justice and also prevent events like this from happening in the future.”
Romney has roots in Mexico. His father, George Romney, was born in Colonia Dubián, an early Latter-day Saint colony in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The family fled to the U.S. during the Mexican Revolution.
Three women and 14 children were traveling in a caravan of three vehicles in the mountains between the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua. Two of the vehicles were headed to Chihuahua to see family members while the third was going to Phoenix to pick up the driver’s husband at the airport, according to family members.
Trump tweeted Tuesday that the U.S. is ready to wage war on drug cartels.
Homeland Security undersecretary David Glawe said the “reprehensible killing of women, children and infants is a stark example of how these organizations operate. The disregard for human life is barbaric.”
Glawe told the committee that transnational organized crime networks are motivated by power and money.
“These networks are commodity agnostic — a human being is moved along with no more care than a gun or a bundle of drugs,” he wrote in his testimony.