Four Americans went to northern Mexico on Friday for a medical procedure, and only two returned alive.
Latavia McGee, Eric Williams, Zindell Brown and Shaeed Woodard (all childhood friends) rented a car in South Carolina and headed to Mexico so that McGee could undergo a tummy tuck in the Spanish-speaking country. Williams, Brown and Woodard accompanied the only woman in the group to ensure her safety. Upon entering Matamoros, Mexico, Mexican cartel members opened fire on the friends’ rental car and forced the quad to exit.
Video footage detailed that the cartel forced the group into the back of a white pickup truck at gunpoint. One person was killed at the scene, according to a warning from the U.S. Consulate in Mexico.
NBC News reported that the harrowing abduction left Brown and Woodard dead. On Tuesday, Tamaulipas State Gov. Américo Villarreal revealed during a press conference that McGee and Williams survived. He also shared that the friends from South Carolina were reportedly mistaken for Haitian drug smugglers by the cartel– though the vehicle they were driving a rental car with U.S. plates from North Carolina.
The friends were located that morning in the La Lagunona area in Matamoros. Williams suffered a gunshot wound to his leg. The two friends were taken to a local medical facility for assistance and then returned to the U.S.
Jose N., from Tamaulipas, was found with the kidnap victims and was subsequently detained. It’s not clear what charges the 24-year-old Mexican man will face.
Spokesperson Ned Price disclosed that the United States government would be offering assistance to bring Woodard and Brown’s bodies home, saying, “We are in the process of working to repatriate the remains of the two Americans who were killed in this incident.”
Authorities are still pursuing the other suspects involved. The FBI also offered a $50,000 reward for McGee, Woodard, Brown and Williams’ safe return. Sadly, two families were devastated and will never see their loved ones again.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement on March 7.
“Last Friday, four Americans were attacked in Matamoros, Mexico. In the wake of the attack, the FBI immediately contacted our Mexican law enforcement and security partners in an effort to locate the victims. The FBI has confirmed that two of the Americans were killed and another injured. The two surviving Americans are now receiving medical treatment in the United States.”
“I want to offer my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of this heinous attack. The Justice Department will be relentless in pursuing justice on their behalf,” Garland continued. “We will do everything in our power to identify, find, and hold accountable the individuals responsible for this attack on American citizens.”
Although William’s wife, Michelle, was grateful that her husband survived, she also said that she was devastated by the other families’ losses.
Williams’ Michelle Williams said she was thankful that her husband and McGee were coming home but added that she was “heartbroken that the other two families can’t say the same.”
Zalandria Brown, Zindell’s sister, revealed that she learned of her brother’s abduction and that she had been in contact with the FBI and Mexican authorities. Zalandria also shared that her sibling wasn’t keen on going to Mexico.
“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 kept saying, ‘We shouldn’t go down.’”
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre made a statement about the abduction of the four South Carolina friends.
“We extend our deepest condolences to their families and friends. Attacks on U.S. citizens are unacceptable, no matter where or under what circumstances they happen. We will continue to work closely with the Mexican government to ensure justice is done in this case. We appreciate the hard work of the Justice Department and the FBI, DHS, and DEA for their swift response to this awful incident and for their continued collaboration with Mexican authorities.”
According to the U.S. State Department, a travel advisory was issued for Mexico in October 2022. A summary of the country’s issues is “Violent crime – such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery – is widespread and common in Mexico. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas of Mexico, as travel by U.S. government employees to certain areas is prohibited or restricted. In many states, local emergency services are limited outside the state capital or major cities.”
Tamaulipas State had a “do not travel” warning due to crime and abductions.
As the families and the victims try to put the pieces of their lives back together, we are praying for them.
And please check the State Department’s website for travel advisories if you plan on traveling abroad.