White House: Working with Mexican Authorities on Deadly Kidnapping Case

March 7, 2023

The White House said Tuesday it was continuing to collaborate with the Mexican government after two of four Americans kidnapped at gunpoint Friday in the Mexican city of Matamoros were found dead. The other two were found alive.

“We extend our deepest condolences to their families and friends,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Tuesday’s daily briefing. “For the sake of privacy, and out of respect to the families, we are going to refrain from further comment about the circumstances at this time. I can confirm that U.S. officials are in touch with the families of the individuals.”

At his daily briefing, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters, “The two survivors have since been repatriated back to the United States. That occurred with the assistance of our Mexican partners, with the assistance of our officials in Mexico. We are in the process of working to repatriate the remains of the two Americans who were killed in this incident.”

Américo Villarreal Anaya, the Governor of Tamaulipas, the Mexican border state where the crime took place, revealed the news about the kidnapped Americans on a phone call with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The call was played during a news conference early Tuesday.

A Mexican cartel is suspected of being behind the attack. Video allegedly shows the four Americans who crossed the border into Matamoros, Tamaulipas for medical procedures. They are believed to have been victims of mistaken identity when they were fired upon, placed in a white truck and taken away by armed men.

When asked Tuesday if there was evidence that the group had been targeted, Price responded, “The investigation is in its earliest days. I understand we may have more to share from the FBI at the appropriate time, but from the Department of State it’s important for us not to impinge on investigative equities.”

Jean-Pierre also told reporters that the DOJ, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and DEA were continuing to collaborate with Mexican authorities. 

“Attacks on U.S. citizens are unacceptable no matter where or under what circumstances they happen,” she said. She added that “since day one of this Administration we have been focused on disrupting transnational criminal organizations, including Mexican drug cartels and human smugglers,” further noting that President Biden had recently signed an executive order “giving the Department of Treasury expanded authorities to penalize cartel organizations and those who control or enable them.” 

Biden also signed an executive order in 2021 imposing sanctions on “foreign persons involved in the global illicit drug trade,” as Jean-Pierre reminded reporters.

The four kidnapped Americans were identified as Zindell Brown, Eric James Williams and cousins Latavia “Tay” McGee and Shaeed Woodard. It has not yet been revealed which of the Americans survived the assault.

An innocent Mexican bystander was also killed amid the kidnapping, according to U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar.

The State Department has issued a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory for American citizens thinking of going to Tamaulipas, citing crime and kidnapping in the area.

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