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Tipsheet

Friend of Americans Kidnapped in Mexico Narrowly Avoided the Same Fate

AP Photo/Eric Gay

A friend of the four Americans who were kidnapped in Mexico this month revealed that she almost traveled into the country with them, but was forced to stay behind in Texas because she forgot her identification to leave the United States.

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To recap, Julio covered this week how a group of four Americans were shot at and then taken away by armed gunmen in Matamoros, Mexico, on March 3. The Americans, identified as Latavia McGee, Zindell Brown, Eric Williams, and Shaeed Woodard, began their journey in South Carolina and were in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates. The FBI announced a reward of $50,000 for the victims’ return and arrest of those involved in the abduction.

Tuesday morning, Spencer covered how Mexican officials announced that two of the four kidnap victims were found dead. The area is reportedly controlled by the Gulf Cartel. Attorney General Merrick Garland shared that the two survivors, who were McGee and Williams, were brought back to the United States and were receiving medical treatment. 

Cheryl Orange, a friend who traveled to South Texas with the group, told the Associated Press that she did not cross over the international border into Mexico because she forgot her identification card to leave the United States. Instead, Orange stayed in a motel in Brownsville, Texas, to wait for her friends as they drove to Matamoros to drop off McGee for a cosmetic operation. Orange told the outlet that her friends were supposed to return within 15 minutes of dropping off McGee.

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Reportedly, hours passed, and Orange did not hear from anyone in the group. She contacted police and revealed that she did not cross the border because she forgot her I.D. Orange reportedly had her friends’ luggage with her. Authorities in Brownsville gave Orange a number to call to speak with criminal investigators on Monday if she still hadn’t heard from her friends.

“She [McGee] simply went for a cosmetic surgery, and that’s it. That’s all, and this happened to them,” Orange said.

AP noted that Mexican authorities found the two survivors and the two deceased at a wooden shack on the outskirts of Matamoros. The shack was being guarded by a 24-year-old man who was arrested. 

According to the police report, Orange told authorities that “she would not be surprised if her friends got arrested because they are known to party and use narcotics.”

According to the New York Post, it is believed that the four kidnapping victims had gotten lost on their way to the clinic and were then ambushed by drug cartel members who mistook them for Haitian drug smugglers. 

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The state of Tamaulipas, where Matamoros is located, is listed as a “do not travel” destination on the U.S. Department of State website “due to crime and kidnapping.”

“Organized crime activity – including gun battles, murder, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, forced disappearances, extortion, and sexual assault – is common along the northern border and in Ciudad Victoria,” the warning states. “Criminal groups target public and private passenger buses, as well as private automobiles traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers and demanding ransom payments.”

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