This is how the 4 Americans kidnapped in Mexico were found

CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico (AP) — The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four kidnapped Americans were being held described armed men, blindfolded people and plenty of activity around the ranch.

Authorities headed into the rural area east of Matamoros on Tuesday morning, leaving the highway and driving remote dirt roads, searching for the described location, according to Mexican investigative documents reviewed Friday by The Associated Press.

Finally, they saw the wooden shack far from any homes or businesses, surrounded by brush, and a white pickup truck parked outside that matched the one the Americans had been loaded into last Friday. Then they started hearing someone yelling, “Help!”

Inside the shed, documents show, Latavia “Tay” McGee and Eric Williams were blindfolded. Next to them were the bodies of Shaid Woodard and Zindel Brown, wrapped in blankets and plastic bags. When authorities arrived, McGee and Williams called out to them desperately in English.

A guard who tried to escape through the back door was quickly apprehended, the documents said. He was wearing a tactical vest, but there is no mention of him being armed.

The four Americans had crossed to Matamoros from Texas so that McGee could have cosmetic surgery. Around noon, they were fired upon in downtown Matamoros and then loaded into the pickup truck. Another friend who stayed in Brownsville called the police after he was unable to reach the group that had crossed the border. A Mexican woman, Areli Pablo Servando, 33, was also killed, apparently by a stray bullet.

In the letter, obtained by The Associated Press through a Tamaulipas state law enforcement official on Thursday, the Scorpions faction of the Gulf cartel apologized to the residents of Matamoros, where the Americans were kidnapped, Servando and the four Americans and their families.

But relatives of the kidnapped Americans said the supposed apology did little to dull the pain of their loved ones killed or injured.

Woodard’s father said he was dumbfounded when he heard the cartel had apologized for the violent abduction, captured in a video that quickly went viral online.

“I’ve just been trying to make sense of it all week. Just restless, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat. It’s just crazy to see your own child taken from you in such a way, in such a violent way. He didn’t deserve it,” James Woodard told reporters Thursday, referring to his son’s death.

Williams’ cousin, who was shot in the left leg during the kidnapping, said his family felt “great” knowing he was alive, but would not accept any apologies from the cartel.

“It’s not going to change anything about the suffering we went through,” Jerry Wallace told the AP on Thursday. Wallace, 62, called on the US and Mexican governments to do a better job of dealing with cartel violence.

US Ambassador Ken Salazar told reporters on Friday that US officials contacted President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador directly over the weekend to ask for help in finding the missing Americans in Matamoros. He said the cartel there “must be broken.”

The letter, attributed to the cartel, condemned last week’s violence and said the gang had handed over to authorities its own members who were responsible.

“We have decided to hand over those who were directly involved and responsible for the events, who at all times acted according to their own decisions and lack of discipline,” the letter said, adding that these individuals had defied the cartel’s rules , which include “respect for the life and well-being of the innocent”.

A photo of five bound men face down on the pavement accompanied the letter, which was shared with The Associated Press by the official on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share the document.

Another state security official said five men were found tied up in one of the vehicles authorities were searching for, along with the letter. That official also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the case.

On Friday, Tamaulipas State Attorney Irving Barrios said via Twitter that five people linked to the violence had been arrested on charges of aggravated kidnapping and murder. He said only one other person had been arrested in recent days.


Associated Press writers Mark Stevenson in Mexico City and Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas contributed to this report.

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