On Friday, a group of four American citizens were kidnapped and assaulted by unknown gunmen after crossing into Mexico to buy medicine. Mexican officials confirmed the incident on Monday, and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated that the Americans were detained after a confrontation between groups. Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar revealed that the victims were kidnapped at gunpoint, and an innocent Mexican citizen died in the attack. He added that several US justice agencies were collaborating with Mexican counterparts to recover the missing persons.
Special Agent Oliver Rich, who heads the FBI’s San Antonio Division, disclosed that the victims were attacked shortly after crossing the border through the city of Matamoros in Tamaulipas state, which is located across from Brownsville, Texas. The victims were driving a white minivan with North Carolina license plates at the time of the attack. The gunmen fired at the passengers in the vehicle, following which the four Americans were taken from the scene in another vehicle. Irving Barrios, Tamaulipas’ chief prosecutor, reported that a Mexican woman died in the attack, but he did not confirm if she was killed in the same gunfight where the kidnapping took place.
Law enforcement has not disclosed the victims’ identities, but Zalandria Brown of Florence, South Carolina, confirmed that her younger brother, Zindell Brown, was among them. She said that her brother, who lived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and two friends had accompanied a third friend who was going to Mexico for a tummy tuck surgery. The four friends were very close and had planned to split up driving duties for the trip. They were aware of the dangers in Mexico, and Zindell had expressed some misgivings.
“Zindell kept saying, ‘We shouldn’t go down,'” Brown said. “This is like a bad dream you wish you could wake up from. To see a member of your family thrown in the back of a truck and dragged, it is just unbelievable.”
Zindell Brown’s family has requested that anyone with relevant information contact local authorities. The White House announced that President Joe Biden was briefed on the situation, and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated that no further information would be released due to privacy concerns.
The Tamaulipas state has seen an increase in cartel violence over the past decade. Many victims have gone unaccounted for as the cartels frequently take bodies of their own. The Gulf Cartel is currently based in Matamoros, which shares a border with Brownsville. The State Department has warned US citizens not to travel to the city due to ongoing violence. In 2014, three American siblings disappeared near Matamoros while visiting their father and were later found shot to death and burned. Their parents claimed that they had been kidnapped by men dressed in police gear who identified themselves as “Hercules,” a tactical security unit in the city.
The FBI is requesting the public’s assistance in identifying those responsible for the assault and kidnapping and is offering a reward of $50,000 for the return of the victims and the arrest of those involved. The FBI, federal partners, and Mexican law enforcement agencies are investigating the incident.