What to know about traveling to Mexico after four Americans were kidnapped


(NEW YORK) — The two Americans who survived a violent kidnapping ordeal in Mexico are back in the U.S., as questions remain surrounding what happened to the two members of the group who died.

Here’s everything we know:

The kidnapping

The four Americans — Eric James Williams, Zindell Brown and cousins Latavia “Tay” McGee and Shaeed Woodard — drove Friday morning into Matamoros, Mexico, which is in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas just south of Brownsville, Texas.

“Shortly after crossing into Mexico, unidentified gunmen fired upon the passengers in the vehicle,” and then put the four Americans in another car and fled, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City said.

Irving Barrios, the attorney general of Tamaulipas, said the Americans were not directly targeted and it appears “it was a misunderstanding.”

Mexican investigators think the kidnappers may have wrongly believed the Americans were rival human traffickers, a source close to the investigation told ABC News.

The rescue

Williams and McGee survived the kidnapping. They were found Tuesday morning in a wooden house in the Lagunona area, outside of Matamoros, Mexican officials said.


The two Americans found dead had blankets or sheets on top of them, a source close to the investigation told ABC News. One of the dead was wearing a surgical robe when he was found, the source said.

The Mexicans tried to seek medical attention for the Americans who were injured in the kidnapping, the Attorney General’s Office of Tamaulipas said in a statement March 9. They were taken in an ambulance to a clinic, according to officials.

One person has been arrested. The 24-year-old suspect was in charge of looking after the victims inside the house where they were found, Mexican officials said.

During the days they were held, the Americans were transferred to various places, including a clinic, in order to create confusion and avoid rescue efforts, said the governor of Tamaulipas, Américo Villarreal.


The survivors and the victims

McGee is a mother of five who traveled from South Carolina to Mexico for a cosmetic medical procedure, according to her family.

Her mother, Barbara Burgess, told ABC News she spoke to her daughter on Tuesday. She said McGee had no major injuries.

Michele Williams, wife of survivor Eric Williams, said the FBI told her that her husband had been shot twice in one leg and once in the other.

He has undergone surgery in a Texas hospital, she said.

Brown, who was among the two killed, was on the trip to Mexico to support his friend, McGee, for her surgery, according to Brown’s sister, Zalayna Brown Grant.

“Zindell was a loving son, brother, uncle and friend,” Grant wrote on a GoFundMe page. “Our family waited for any news about my brother’s return, but he won’t be coming home alive.”

Woodard, who was also killed, was McGee’s cousin, according to McGee’s mother.

The bodies of the two Americans killed were repatriated to the U.S. on March 9.

A fifth person who was traveling with the group, Cheryl Orange, did not cross the border into Mexico and remained in Brownsville, according to a police report from the Brownsville Police Department.

The investigation

The FBI said it’s working with “federal and international partners to determine the facts of what happened and to hold those responsible for this horrific and violent attack accountable for their crimes.”

The FBI and State Department are working to bring the bodies of the two victims back to the U.S., the FBI added.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday, “Attacks on U.S. citizens are unacceptable, no matter where, under what circumstances they occur. We’re going to work closely with the Mexican government to ensure that justice is done in this case.”

President Joe Biden has “been kept updated” on the situation, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.

The FBI urges anyone with information to call its San Antonio office at 210-225-6741 or submit information on its website.

ABC News’ Miles Cohen, Ellie Kaufman, Matt Rivers, Anne Laurent, Shannon Crawford, Dan Carranza and Luke Barr contributed to this report.

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