Four Americans were kidnapped on Friday as they entered Mexico from Brownsville, Texas. Additional information is now becoming available. CBS News has identified the Americans as Latavia “Tay” McGee, Shaeed Woodard, Eric James Williams, and Zindell Brown after receiving confirmation from US sources that one “innocent” Mexican person was killed by gunmen during the kidnapping in Matamoros.
According to Barbara Burgess, the mother of 33-year-old McGee, a mother of six, the group of South Carolina friends had flown to Matamoros so that her daughter might receive medical treatment there. She adds that a few years prior, McGee had undergone surgery in Mexico. Zalandria Brown, Brown’s sister, told the AP that her brother went with a buddy who was receiving a belly tuck. She recalls her brother’s concerns about the journey: “Zindell kept saying, ‘We shouldn’t go down,'” she adds.
In contrast to that story, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador claimed in a statement on Monday that the group had traveled to Mexico to “purchase medicines.” According to a US official speaking to CNN, investigators think the friends’ white minivan was targeted by a Mexican cartel after they were mistaken for drug smugglers from Haiti.
Unsettling footage that purports to depict the kidnapping appears to show one woman being coerced by armed men into getting into the back of a white pickup truck. The shooters then force at least two more persons, who appear to be unresponsive, into the truck. The identity of the Americans who are allegedly being abducted by the gunman is yet unknown.
The Washington Post goes into further detail on the reasons why Americans frequently cross the border, such as for employment, school, to see family and friends, or even just to get a bite to eat. But, one of the main factors is health care, which includes everything from cosmetic surgery and pharmacy visits to dentist and optometrist appointments. Nestor Rodriguez, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, notes that it is a “very common phenomenon” for people to travel to Reynosa or Matamoros for medications or medical procedures because they are less expensive there than in Texas. He also notes that “some Mexican Americans may feel more familiar with Mexican doctors rather than with American ones.”
For information that results in the capture of the offenders and the return of the victims, the FBI is offering a $50,000 reward.