Four U.S. citizens on a road trip to Mexico for cosmetic surgery were caught in a drug cartel shootout and kidnapping. The incident left two dead and two rescued alive after being held captive for days in a remote region of the Gulf coast.
Shortly after crossing the border city of Matamoros on Friday, Eric James Williams, Latavia “Tay” McGee, Zindell Brown, and McGee’s cousin Shaeed Woodard crashed their minivan as drug cartel factions tore through the streets.
“All four Americans were placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men,” the FBI said.
Mexican law enforcement tracked the cartel’s movements and found they had taken the four to a medical clinic “to create confusion and avoid efforts to rescue them,” Tamaulipas Governor Américo Villarreal said.
The four were found in a wooden house on Tuesday in a rural area east of Matamoros called Ejido Tecolote. One of the deceased was inside the house, and the second was found outside it. Governor Villareal said Eric James Williams had a gunshot wound to his leg, but the injury was not life-threatening. The survivors, Eric James Williams and Latavia “Tay” McGee have returned to their families.
A 24-year-old man was standing outside guarding the wooden house and was arrested. The charges against him are unclear.
“It’s quite a relief,” said Robert Williams, 38-year-old Eric’s brother. “I look forward to seeing him again and actually being able to talk to him.”
Williams and McGee were transported to Valley Regional Medical Center in Brownsville, Texas, and escorted by Mexican military Humvees and National Guard trucks with mounted machine guns, according to the Brownsville Herald. All inquiries were referred to the FBI by a spokesperson of the hospital.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden had been informed of the situation. She confirmed that U.S. officials were in touch with the families but declined to answer other questions due to privacy concerns.
She concluded, “Attacks on U.S. citizens are unacceptable. We will continue to work closely with the Mexican government to ensure justice is done in this case.”