One of the four Americans who traveled to Mexico for medical services last week 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 is staying in touch with the FBI and local officials.
“It’s like a bad dream you wish you could wake up from,” she said in a phone interview with the Associated Press. “To see a family member being thrown into the back of a truck and being dragged along is just incredible.”
Zalandria Brown said her brother lives in Myrtle Beach and two of his friends were accompanying a third friend who was planning to visit Mexico for tummy tuck surgery.
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On Friday, the four Americans were traveling in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates from Brownsville, Texas to the Mexican city of Matamoros in Tamaulipas, where the vehicle was fired upon by heavily armed men, the FBI said in a statement Sunday.
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The Americans were then thrown into a pickup truck and have not been seen since.
Brown said the group is very close and her brother has expressed hesitation about the trip.
“Zindell kept saying, ‘We shouldn’t go under,'” Brown told the outlet.
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Brown’s family asked the public to share relevant information with local authorities.
The victim’s father, O’dell William Brown, said the family was desperate for answers. “I don’t know which way to go right now,” he said. “We don’t know what’s what.”
The first incident happened on Friday and was seen by several witnesses.
A video posted to social media on Friday appeared to show men with assault rifles and body armor carrying the four US citizens into the back of a white pickup truck in broad daylight.
The extent of the victims’ injuries was not immediately clear, although some appeared injured or dead.
Photos taken at the scene show bullet holes in the van and its windows shattered.
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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. Gunshots then rang out as another SUV rolled up and several gunmen jumped out.
“All of a sudden they (the gunmen) were in front of us,” said the woman, who said she did not want to be identified because of possible retaliation. “I went into shock, nobody honked, nobody moved. Everyone must have been thinking the same thing: ‘If we move, they’ll see us, or they might shoot us.’”
The witness said the gunmen forced a woman, who could walk, into the back of their truck. Another victim, who saw his head moving, was carried to the truck.
“The other two dragged her across the sidewalk, we don’t know if they were alive or dead,” she said.
Just a few minutes later, Mexican authorities were on site.
Located on the southernmost tip of Texas near the Gulf Coast, Matamoros is dominated by powerful factions of the Gulf drug cartel, who often fight among themselves.
Thousands of Mexicans are disappearing as a result of the violence in Tamaulipas and the shootings in Matamoros were so bad on Friday that the US consulate issued an alert urging caution.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday that “there was a confrontation between groups and they were arrested”. Tamaulipas’ chief prosecutor, Irving Barri, later reported that a woman died in the shooting, but did not specify whether she was killed in the same shooting where the kidnapping occurred.
The bureau has offered a $50,000 reward for the return of the victims and the arrest of those responsible.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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