Americans Kidnapped in Mexico Identified

Relatives say 4 friends from Carolinas had traveled to Mexico so one could get a medical procedure
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2023 6:52 AM CST
Family of Abducted Americans: Mom of 6 Wanted Tummy Tuck
A Mexican security force member stands next to a white minivan with North Carolina plates and several bullet holes at the crime scene where gunmen kidnapped four US citizens who crossed into Mexico from Texas on Friday.   (AP Photo)

More details are emerging on the abduction of four Americans who crossed into Mexico from Brownsville, Texas, on Friday. CBS News, which confirms from US officials that one "innocent" Mexican citizen was killed by gunmen during the kidnapping in Matamoros, has identified the Americans as Latavia "Tay" McGee, Shaeed Woodard, Eric James Williams, and Zindell Brown. Barbara Burgess, the mother of 33-year-old McGee, a mom of six, tells CNN that the group of friends from South Carolina had traveled to Matamoros so her daughter could undergo a medical procedure there. She notes that McGee had traveled to Mexico for surgery a couple of years ago as well. Brown's sister, Zalandria Brown, tells the AP her brother had accompanied a friend who was getting a tummy tuck. "Zindell kept saying, 'We shouldn't go down,''' she says of her brother's reservations about the trip.

That narrative differs somewhat from that of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who said in a Monday statement that the group had come to Mexico to "buy medicines." A US official tells CNN that investigators believe the group of friends, who were traveling in a white minivan, were targeted by a Mexican cartel after being mistakenly identified as Haitian drug smugglers. A disturbing video has emerged online that appears to show the abduction take place, with one woman forced by armed men to climb into the back of a white pickup truck. The gunmen then drag at least two seemingly unresponsive people into the truck as well. It hasn't yet been confirmed that the people shown being taken by the gunmen are the missing Americans.

The Washington Post dives deeper into why Americans regularly move back and forth across the border, including for work, school, to visit family and friends, or even just to catch a bite. Health care, however, is one of the biggest reasons—everything from dentist and optometrist appointments to visiting pharmacies and getting cosmetic surgery. "It's a very common phenomenon to travel to Reynosa or Matamoros for medicines or medical procedures ... because it's less expensive than in Texas," University of Texas at Austin sociology professor Nestor Rodriguez says, adding that "some Mexican Americans may feel more familiar with Mexican doctors rather than with American ones." The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the return of the victims and the perpetrators' arrest. (Read more Mexico stories.)

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