According to two family members, the four Americans who disappeared in Mexico on Friday were a close-knit group of friends from South Carolina who were on their way to have one of them (a mother of six) receive medical treatment in Mexico.
The mother, Barbara Burgess, said Latvia “Tay” Washington McGee, 33, never attended her doctor’s appointment on Friday after traveling to Mexico with Shaeed Woodard, Zindell Brown, and their friend Eric for the surgery.
Burgess claimed that the FBI had contacted her on Sunday to tell her that her daughter had been kidnapped and was in danger. They told me to phone them if she calls me, she explained.
According to the FBI, the missing Americans drove into the border city of Matamoros on Friday, when they were fired upon before being “put in a vehicle and removed from the scene by armed persons.” Mexican authorities are still looking for them.
According to US Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar, the confrontation also resulted in the death of a Mexican civilian.
According to a US official who knew the inquiry, the Americans were targeted by a Mexican gang that had mistaken them for Haitian drug smugglers.
According to the official, the investigation thus far has revealed no criminal past that would cause worry regarding the US individuals.
Their kidnapping draws attention to the increasing industry of “medical tourism” and the persistent violence that has plagued various Mexican cities during the country’s protracted drug war.
More than half a million people call the city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, home. It sits across the River Grande from Brownsville, Texas. Crime and kidnapping are serious enough problems in Tamaulipas that the United States Department of State has issued a “Level 4: Do Not Visit” recommendation to its nationals.
On Monday, Tamaulipas Attorney General Irving Barrios Mojica claimed that federal and local Mexican authorities are working together to find the missing Americans.
Officials from Tamaulipas stated that investigators have been busy processing biological samples for genetic profiles, collecting ballistics evidence, collecting fingerprints, and processing surveillance footage. Barrios Mojica also announced the formation of a federal-state task team to process information and coordinate with US officials.
The FBI has made a public appeal for assistance locating the Americans and determining who was responsible for the attack. The government has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of the victims and the perpetrators’ capture.
According to briefings held by officials on Monday, the White House and the US Department of State are “closely watching” the matter.
Mother Needed To Get To The Hospital For A Procedure
Washington McGee, a mother of six, reportedly traveled to Mexico for medical treatment for the second time on this trip. Burgess stated that her daughter went abroad for surgery around two to three years ago.
According to a US official familiar with the inquiry, receipts in the group’s vehicle suggested the Americans were in Mexico for medical procedures.
On Monday, Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that the group had crossed the border to “purchase drugs,” adding that the “whole government” is working to resolve the situation.
Mexico has been a trendy destination for “medical tourism,” luring travelers seeking cheaper alternatives or medical procedures that are banned or unavailable in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that while this is becoming more common, it is not without risk, particularly from infection and other post-procedure consequences, depending on the location.
Zalandria Brown, Brown’s sister, said that the missing Americans were “connected like glue” because they grew up together in South Carolina. She continued, saying that she and her sibling share a special bond.
“Zindell is like my shadow; he’s like my son; he’s like my hip bone. This is simply how close we are,” she explained.
CNN has contacted the Mexico Attorney General’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Secretary of Public Security for the State of Tamaulipas.
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We Have No Idea If She Is Still Alive Or Not
Mary McFadden, Washington McGee’s aunt, said that after the family hadn’t heard from the pals by Sunday, they started looking online for any news relating to the location they were supposed to be in. Then, McFadden said, the family viewed a video of her niece’s abduction.
“We recognized her and her blonde hair,” McFadden added. She also claimed to have recognized her niece’s clothes in a Facebook live video that Washington McGee had broadcast on Friday.
This occurred during broad daylight. It’s unclear whether she’s still alive or not. “In the last photo we saw, she was alive and well and walking around,” McFadden added.
Washington McGee has children aged 6-18, and their mother, she added, must return to the area for their sake.
CNN has obtained video that appears to show a woman and several other individuals being forcibly stuffed into the back of a white pickup vehicle. Although CNN has verified the incident fits the footage, they have not verified the four Americans in the video are those four Americans.
A third, clearly armed man observes from the shadows while two unknown men pull or force the woman onto the truck’s bed. Next, the three men appear to drag at least two limp victims onto the truck bed.
Photos obtained by CNN also appear to show pieces of the area where the incident took place, including the crash between the car thought to have been driven by the Americans and another vehicle before they were abducted at gunpoint.
The FBI in San Antonio reported that the Americans were in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates.
The FBI refused to verify the photos’ legitimacy, but CNN was able to corroborate their veracity with a US official who is familiar with the inquiry thanks to geolocation technology.
A woman can be seen in one of the photographs sitting next to three persons resting on the ground near a white minivan. The van’s doors are wide open. It is not known if the four people pictured are American citizens.
Several others can be seen resting on the ground next to the white pickup vehicle where the woman appeared to have been loaded.
The arrival of an ambulance is captured in one image. However, it’s not apparent if anyone received medical assistance.
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