Bodies of 2 Mexico kidnapping victims expected to be returned to US for further autopsies, source says


The bodies of two Americans killed in an armed kidnapping in Mexico are expected to be returned to the U.S. on Thursday, a source in Mexico’s attorney general’s office tells CNN, as the two survivors taken to a U.S. hospital have yet to make it. to be left behind with their families.

The remains of Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown will likely be taken to a funeral home in Brownsville, Texas, according to a US official familiar with the investigation. The repatriation of the remains comes two days after the bodies were discovered along with their two surviving friends in a house around the Mexican city of Matamoros.

Autopsies on the bodies were completed in Mexico Wednesday morning, a Tamaulipas prosecutor’s office official told CNN, although Mexican authorities have not released the cause of death. A second autopsy will be performed once the remains are in the US, the US official said.

CNN contacted the US State Department about the repatriation of the remains.

The dead were among a group of four friends from South Carolina who had driven into Matamoros on Friday so that one of them, Latavia Washington McGee, could undergo a medical procedure, two family members told CNN. But their trip was violently interrupted when unknown gunmen opened fire on their van, then loaded the Americans into a vehicle and drove them away, the FBI said.

One of the survivors, Eric Williams, was shot three times in the legs, his wife, Michelle Williams, told CNN. When he and McGee were discovered alive Tuesday, Williams was taken to a hospital in Texas to undergo surgery, he said.

Washington McGee was also taken to the hospital, her mother, Barbara Burgess, told CNN, although Mexican authorities said she was not injured.

“She saw them die,” Burgess said, recounting what Washington McGee told her about the kidnapping. “They were going in and a van came and hit them, and then they started shooting at the car, shooting into the van. … He said the others tried to run and were shot at the same time.”

Washington McGee and Brown are also cousins, though they grew up together and were as close as brothers, Burgess said.

“He was a good man and I miss him,” Burgess said of Brown. “I loved him. [There’s] I wouldn’t do anything for him.”

Investigators believe the group was targeted by a Mexican cartel that mistook them for Haitian drug traffickers, a U.S. official familiar with the investigation told CNN on Monday, and the kidnapping has brought renewed attention to efforts by U.S. and Mexican officials to fighting organized crime in Mexico. .

During a Wednesday briefing by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a government-sponsored fact-checking agency claimed that reports that Americans are being confused with Haitian drug traffickers are false. The president said “adversaries” in Mexico and the US are trying to make a “scandal” of the case.

CNN has reached out to investigators in the US and Mexico, as well as the fact-checking agency, for comment.

Mexican authorities are still investigating the kidnapping. One person, identified as 24-year-old Jose “N”, was arrested when the Americans were found on Tuesday, according to Tamaulipas Governor Américo Villarreal, although officials have not confirmed whether he is linked to a criminal organization.

were kidnapped in Mexico have been found dead, according to Tamaulipas Gov. Américo Villarreal Anaya. One of the two survivors has injuries, he said.” data-duration=”03:06″ data-source-html=” – Source:
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Kidnapping scene Matamoros Mexico

The video shows Americans kidnapped in Mexico being loaded into a truck

The kidnapping of the four friends on Friday sparked a days-long investigation by local and federal Mexican officials, who say they were in near-constant contact with US authorities until the two survivors and the victims’ bodies were finally discovered.

The four friends had booked a hotel in Brownsville, Texas, and planned to drive to a clinic in Matamoros on Friday for Washington McGee to undergo a medical procedure, a close friend told CNN on condition of anonymity.

At approximately 9:18 A.M. on Friday, the team went to Matamoros, Villarreal said. But on their way to the clinic, the group got lost and had trouble contacting the clinic for directions because of poor phone signal, the close friend said.

Suddenly, another vehicle collided with the group’s van and gunmen began shooting at the group, sending some of the friends running, according to Burgess, who recounted her daughter’s experience. “They were all shot at once,” he said.

A video obtained by CNN shows Washington McGee being pushed into the bed of a white pickup truck by a group of gunmen, who then begin dragging at least two more emaciated bodies into the truck. Burgess, when asked about the video, said her daughter was being treated “like trash.”

The Americans then drove away from the scene in the vehicle, according to an FBI report on the kidnapping.

In the following days, teams were moved to several different locations to “create confusion and avoid rescue efforts,” Villarreal said.

Meanwhile, Mexican investigators were searching for the missing group, reviewing surveillance footage and processing vehicles and ballistics found at the scene, officials said.

After noticing that the Americans’ truck had North Carolina license plates, Mexican authorities contacted US officials, who were able to move the plates, according to Tamaulipas Attorney General Irving Barrios Mojica. They were also able to identify the gunmen’s truck, he said.

“Several searches” by multiple agencies then began, and the group was eventually found in a “wooden house” in or near Matamoros on Tuesday morning, Villarreal said.

Although U.S. law enforcement was not involved in the investigation on the ground, federal and local agencies in Mexico were cooperating in the effort and a joint task force was formed to contact U.S. officials, Barrios Mojica said.

The deadly kidnapping – and the possibility that it was carried out by a cartel – has drawn attention to ongoing efforts by US and Mexican officials to curb cartel activity that is the main driver of the fentanyl trade between the countries.

A U.S. delegation traveled to Mexico this week to “discuss our governments’ continued cooperation to combat illegal fentanyl,” a National Security Council spokesman told CNN on Wednesday.

The visit comes as fentanyl – a powerful synthetic opioid – is fueling a record number of overdose deaths in the US, with Mexico the “dominant source” of the drug in the US, according to a government report released last year.

The delegation plans to talk about the kidnapping and discuss a “fundamental strategy to attack the cartels,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Wednesday.

President Joe Biden promised “strong sanctions to crack down on fentanyl trafficking” in his State of the Union address last month. His government has since sanctioned several cartel members and affiliated groups for their involvement in the drug trade.

López Obrador said there was “good cooperation” between the two countries in anti-drug efforts, but resisted calls from some Republican lawmakers in the US to designate the cartels as terrorist organizations, saying it would infringe on Mexico’s sovereignty.

“We are not involved in looking at what the gangs in the United States are doing that distribute fentanyl or how the drug is distributed in the United States,” López Obrador said at his daily press conference in Mexico City.

The ongoing talks between the US and Mexico “are working in a coordinated way in terms of sovereignty,” he said.

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