Five more people were arrested by Mexican police on Friday in connection with the kidnapping of four Americans in Matamoros, Mexico. The bodies of the two Americans who were killed were returned to US diplomats, and questions about last week’s violent kidnapping are still being asked.
The Attorney General of Tamaulipas, Irving Barrios Mojica, said on Friday that a total of six people have been arrested, one of whom was caught on Tuesday.
“The Tamaulipas Attorney General’s Office (#FGJT) performed an arrest warrant against 5 people linked to the events of March 3 in Matamoros, for the crimes of aggravated kidnapping and intentional simple homicide. One more person who was arrested in recent days, was linked to the process,” Barrios Mojica tweeted.
Before the arrests were made public, a Tamaulipas Prosecutor’s Office official who was familiar with the investigation told CNN that the case was still “very confusing.” They were still gathering information about last week’s kidnapping and looking at all possible angles.
Earlier, a cartel said it was sorry for killing a Mexican woman in what the father of one of the victims called “a stupid crime.” The Gulf Cartel, which is thought to be behind the kidnappings, sent a letter of apology and turned over five of its members to local authorities on Thursday, according to online images and a copy of the letter that CNN got from an official who is familiar with the investigation. CNN can’t say for sure that the photos are real, so it has asked Mexican and US authorities for their thoughts.
Investigators think the letter is real, but the official who gave CNN the letter said that Mexican and US law enforcement officials involved in the investigation have serious doubts about how sincere the group’s apology is. The governor of Tamaulipas, Américo Villarreal, said on Tuesday that one of the people who had been arrested was “surveilling the victims.” He named the person as 24-year-old Jose “N.”
The Tamaulipas attorney general’s office identified the person arrested Tuesday as Jose Guadalupe “G.” A judge ordered him to be temporarily detained for five months for the investigation to be carried out, the attorney general’s office said. Officials would not say whether or not the man is connected to any criminal groups.
Barrios Mojica said in a tweet that the bodies of Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown, two Americans who were killed, were given to US diplomatic officials Thursday after a forensic examination.
“I’ve tried to make sense out of it and tried to be strong about it,” Woodard’s father, James Woodard, told reporters Thursday, which would have been his son’s 34th birthday. “It was just a stupid crime.”
The two survivors – LaTavia Washington McGee and Eric Williams – returned to the US Tuesday to be treated in a hospital. Williams was shot three times in the legs. Since then, he has had two surgeries and rods put in his legs, his wife said on a GoFundMe page set up to help pay for his medical and living costs.
“They need to keep getting them until they get them all,” said Barbara Burgess, the mother of Washington McGee, who was hurt during the incident. In a phone call, Burgess also said that her daughter would be able to figure out who hurt her because of their tattoos.
The close-knit group had traveled from South Carolina to Matamoros so that Washington McGee could have a medical procedure. But the friends were violently stopped by gunmen who shot at the Americans’ van, threw them roughly into the back of a truck, and drove off, Burgess and a video of the event say. The victims were taken to different places before they were found Tuesday in a house near Matamoros.
The Americans’ Path Is Confirmed By A New Video
The four Americans were on their way to a doctor’s appointment less than three hours before they were taken. A new livestream video taken by one of the victims and obtained, geolocated, and analyzed by CNN shows them going to the appointment.
CNN figured out that the video was taken on a street in the northernmost part of Matamoros, right next to the bridge that the group used to get into Mexico. The time on the GPS, the length and direction of the shadows in the video, and the fact that the van is close to the bridge all show that it was taken a few minutes after 9:18 a.m., which is when the attorney general of Tamaulipas says the group crossed into Mexico.
Even though they were using GPS to find their way, it is not clear how the four ended up in that remote area. Based on what can be seen in the video, the GPS routes show that they were heading toward the doctor’s office where Washington McGee had an appointment.
But a US official who knows about the investigation tells CNN that the group never showed up for that appointment at the doctor’s office. The original appointment was set for 7:30 a.m., but the group called the doctor’s office to say they would be late.
Williams posted the video on Facebook Live. CNN got it from a friend who didn’t want to be named because they were afraid for their safety. As the group drove south on Sixth Street in Matamoros, the driver turned right on Galeana Street, away from the doctor’s office, even though the GPS said to go straight.
The video is helpful because it gives another time stamp of where the four were before they were taken, but it doesn’t explain why they didn’t go to the doctor’s appointment they were supposed to go to.
The next time the car is seen, according to the attorney general of Tamaulipas, is at 11:12 a.m. on a surveillance video more than a mile south of the doctor’s office. The attorney general of Tamaulipas says that between 11:12 and 11:38 a.m., a grey Volkswagen Jetta starts following the van. At 11:41 a.m., more than one car is following the van. At 11:45 a.m., the cartel confronts the Americans, and the shooting and kidnapping start.
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López Obrador Says That The Investigation Will Be “Extensive.”
The kidnappings have made people pay more attention to efforts to stop cartel violence in Mexico. For example, Republican lawmakers in the US have called for cartels to be labeled as terrorist groups and said they plan to file legislation that would let the US military operate in Mexico.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador quickly pushed back against the pressure from the Republicans, saying that the actions would violate Mexican sovereignty.
López Obrador said Friday that the investigation will be “in-depth” and that it is “important because the reputation of our country and of the government is at stake.” He told the news media Officials in Mexico found out that the Americans “had a criminal history in the U.S.,” but he didn’t say how that might be related to the kidnapping.
CNN is looking into what the Mexican president said about the past crimes of the four Americans. CNN was told by a source in the US that the US hasn’t found any proof that the four Americans were in Mexico to do something illegal. The FBI has set up a website where people can upload photos or videos that might be related to the killings and kidnappings.
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