Four Americans kidnapped in Mexico on March 3 have been identified as a close-knit group of friends who were traveling for a medical procedure.
A mother-of-6 identified as Latavia “Tay” Washington McGee, 33, drove to Mexico with her friends to undergo a medical procedure. She was accompanied by Shaeed Woodard, Zindell Brown, and someone identified only as Eric, according to what McGee’s mother, Barbara Burgess, told CNN.
The victims, according to Brown’s sister, Zalandria Brown, grew up together in South Carolina and are “bonded like glue.”
“Zindell is like my shadow, he’s like my son, he’s like my hip bone. We’re just tight like that,” she added.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, the incident happened in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, when armed men opened fire on a white minivan with North Carolina license plates, as it crossed over the Mexico border. Afterward, the men allegedly pulled all four people out of the minivan and forced them into another vehicle.
Burgess reportedly said the FBI contacted her on Sunday and informed her that her daughter and her group are the ones that were kidnapped.
“They said if she calls me to call them,” Burgess said.
McGee’s aunt, Mary McFadden, told CNN that they watched the video that showed armed men forcing the victims into a truck. She said she recognized her niece’s blonde hair, as well as her outfit.
“This happened in plain daylight. We don’t know if she is dead or alive. The last picture we saw, she was walking alive,” McFadden said. “She is a mother and we need her to come back here for her kids.”
Officials said receipts found inside the minivan indicate that the Americans may have been traveling to Mexico for medical reasons, confirming what Burgess told CNN.
“The information we have is that they crossed the border to buy medicines in Mexico, there was a confrontation between groups and they were detained,” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said earlier this week. “The whole government is working on it.”
US Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar added that an innocent bystander was shot and killed during the incident.
So far, the embassy has not provided additional information about the victims but demanded for the armed men return them to safety. A $50,000 reward is currently being offered for the return of the victims and the gunmen’s arrest.
Meanwhile, officials continue to warn people that the area is a “Level 4 Do Not Travel.” The US State Department said that Tamaulipas, which is right across the Rio Grande at the Brownsville, Texas, border, has been riddled with kidnapping and other crimes.
“Criminal groups target public and private passenger buses, as well as private automobiles traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers and demanding ransom payments,” the State Department advisory said.
The FBI urges anyone with information to call FBI San Antonio Division at 210-225-6741. Tips online should be sent to https://tips.fbi.gov. Tipsters can remain anonymous.
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[Feature Photo: A member of the Mexican security forces stands next to a white minivan with North Carolina plates and several bullet holes, at the crime scene where gunmen kidnapped four U.S. citizens who crossed into Mexico from Texas, Friday, March 3, 2023. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the four Americans were going to buy medicine and were caught in the crossfire between two armed groups after they had entered Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, on Friday. (AP Photo)]