One of the four Americans who traveled to Mexico last week for health services and was subsequently shot at and kidnapped has been identified by a member of his family.
Zalandria Brown, of Florence, South Carolina, identified her younger brother, Zindell Brown, as one of the four victims and said she remains in contact with the FBI and local officials.
“This is like a bad dream you wish you could wake up from,” she said in a phone interview with the Associated Press. “To see a member of your family thrown in the back of a truck and dragged, it is just unbelievable.”
Zalandria Brown said her brother lives in Myrtle Beach and two of his friends accompanied a third friend who planned to visit Mexico for a tummy tuck surgery.
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On Friday, the four Americans traveled in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates from Brownsville, Texas into the Mexican city of Matamoros, located in Tamaulipas, when the vehicle came under fire by heavily armed men, the FBI said in a statement Sunday.
The Americans were then thrown into a pickup and have not been seen since.
Brown said the group was extremely close and that her brother expressed his hesitancy over the trip.
“Zindell kept saying, ‘We shouldn’t go down,’” Brown told the outlet.
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Zindell Brown’s family asked the public to help share any relevant information with local authorities.
The victim’s father O’dell William Brown said the family is desperate for answers. “I don’t know which way to go right now,” he said. “We don’t know what’s what.”
The initial incident took place on Friday and was seen by several witnesses.
A video posted to social media Friday appeared to show men with assault rifles and body armor carrying the four U.S. citizens into the bed of a white pickup in broad daylight.
The extent of the victims’ injuries was not immediately clear, although some appeared wounded or dead.
Photos taken at the scene show bullet holes in the van and its windows smashed.
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A woman who reportedly witnessed the incident told the Associated Press she saw a vehicle collide with the white minivan near an intersection. Gunfire then rang out as another SUV rolled up and several armed men hopped out.
“All of a sudden they (the gunmen) were in front of us,” said the woman, who said she did not wish to be identified due to possible retaliation. “I entered a state of shock, nobody honked their horn, nobody moved. Everybody must have been thinking the same thing, ‘If we move they will see us, or they might shoot us.’”
The witness said the gunmen forced a woman, who was able to walk, into the back of their truck. Another victim, who she saw move his head, was carried to the truck.
“The other two they dragged across the pavement, we don’t know if they were alive or dead,” she said.
Mexican authorities were on the scene just minutes later.
Matamoros is located at the southernmost tip of Texas near the Gulf coast and is dominated by powerful Gulf drug cartel factions, who often fight among themselves.
Thousands of Mexicans disappear in Tamaulipas due to this violence and shootings in Matamoros were so bad on Friday that the U.S. Consulate issued an alert urging caution.
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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday that “there was a confrontation between groups, and they were detained.” Tamaulipas’ chief prosecutor Irving Barri reported later that a woman died in the shooting, but he did not specify whether she was killed in the same gunfight where the kidnapping took place.
The bureau is offering a $50,000 reward for the victims’ return and the arrest of those responsible.
The Associated Press contributed to this report