A Mexican drug cartel believed to be responsible for the kidnapping last week that ended in the deaths of two Americans and a Mexican woman in Matamoros, Mexico, has issued an apology letter. The cartel also handed over five of its members, believed to be the perpetrators, to local authorities.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter from authorities in Tamaulipas, Mexico, where the kidnappings occurred.
“The [Gulf Cartel] apologizes to the society of Matamoros, the relatives of Ms. Areli, and the affected American people and families.”
The two murdered Americans have been identified as Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown. Their bodies were delivered to US diplomatic authorities. Survivors Latavia Washington McGee and Eric Williams returned to the U.S. and were hospitalized.
According to family members who spoke to CNN, the four victims were close friends from South Carolina. They drove to Matamoros for McGee to have surgery.
The FBI reported that the trip abruptly ended when gunmen opened fire on the group’s van before forcing the Americans into another vehicle and driving them away. A stray bullet also killed a Mexican bystander during the shooting.
Tamaulipas Attorney General Irving Barrios Mojica believes the cartel may have mistaken the Americans for Haitian drug smugglers.
The Associated Press reported that a photograph depicting five men bound, lying face down on the pavement, with their shirts pulled over their heads, was included with the apology letter they received.
A separate unnamed state security official said five men had been discovered tied up inside a vehicle authorities had been searching for alongside the handwritten letter. Police have not confirmed that they have the new suspects in custody.
The cartel stated that the five men did not abide by the cartel’s rules, including “respecting the life and well-being of the innocent.” Allegedly, they acted of their own volition.
“The Gulf Cartel, Scorpion Group, strongly condemns the events of last Friday. For this reason, we decided to hand over those directly involved and responsible for the acts, who at all times acted under their own determination and indiscipline and against the rules in which the [Gulf Cartel] always operates.”
Authorities have yet to confirm the letter’s authenticity. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a professor at George Mason University who studies cartels, told CNN that in the wake of high-profile incidents, it is common practice for Mexican cartels, particularly in the country’s northeast, to issue statements to the authorities or rival groups.
The official who shared the letter with CNN said that Mexican and American authorities investigating the kidnapping have doubts about whether the apology letter is authentic. If so, they believe the apology was issued after the attack drew much attention to the cartel’s activities and increased public scrutiny of their movements.
Mexican security analyst David Saucedo told The Associated Press that the killings brought in National Guard troops and an Army special forces to run patrols that “heat up the plaza” in “narco terminology.”
“It is very difficult right now for them to continue working in terms of street-level drug sales and transferring drugs to the United States; they are the first ones interested in closing this chapter as soon as possible.”
Shaeed Woodard’s father, James Woodard, watched the video of his son’s abduction on television and said it was difficult to get through.
“That was so hard for me to see those videos and see him dragged and thrown on the back of the vehicle. He was a baby, and for him to be taken from me like that was very hurtful. My family is hurt real bad because he was so lovable. He had the biggest heart.”
Eric Williams’s wife, Michele Williams, told CNN that her husband was shot three times in the legs. She revealed that Williams underwent surgery in Texas after he and McGee were found alive. McGee was unharmed, but she was traumatized.
“She watched them die. They were driving through and a van came up and hit them, and that’s when they started shooting at the car, shooting inside the van. … She said the others tried to run, and they got shot at the same time.”
The kidnapping and murder have intensified US and Mexican efforts to reduce cartel activities, a key factor of the fentanyl trade between the two countries. According to a government report, Mexico is the “dominant force” of fentanyl in the United States.
A U.S. National Security Council spokesman told CNN that a U.S. delegation traveled to Mexico to “discuss our governments’ ongoing cooperation in combating illicit fentanyl.” They will address the kidnapping and develop a “fundamental strategy to attack the cartels.”
Moumita Basuroychowdhury is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest. After earning an economics degree at Cornell University, she moved to NYC to pursue her MFA in creative writing. She enjoys reporting on science, business and culture news. You can reach her at email@example.com.