Americans across the country woke up the morning of Tuesday to breaking news that a large family of United States citizens had been massacred by a Mexican drug cartel while traveling through Mexico back to the U.S.
As the investigation into this attack is still fluid, many news outlets have struggled to pinpoint all the actual facts regarding this case, but here’s what we know so far.
According to Fox News, at least six children and three women from a faith-based community of Americans located in Mexico were shot to death on Monday. Additionally, six more children were wounded and one is missing after their group of vehicles came under fire by a convoy of gunmen believed to be affiliated with dangerous Mexican cartels.
It’s also been reported that all of the victims had American-Mexican dual citizenship.
It’s believed that the group was traveling from their compound where they resided in Mexico, back to another compound across the southern border in the United States. The victims were traveling in a group consisting of three large SUV’s and were reportedly on their way to attend a family wedding in the U.S.
Authorities believe that the convoy may have been mistaken by the drug cartels as a group related to a rival drug gang in the area, leading to the horrific attack.
Among the gruesome details: a bloodly slaughter, babies being burned alive and women being raped.
A family member of those that were massacred, Kendra Lee Miller, identified the victims to media outlets as Christina Marie Langford Johnson, 29, Dawna Langford, 43, Trevor Langford, 11, Rogan Langford, 2, Rhonita Maria Miller, 30, Howard Miller, 12, Krystal Miller, 10, and 6-month-old twins Titus and Tiana Miller.
Another relative of the family, Lage Langford Jr. spoke with Fox News about the horrific situation.
“It’s just huge. It’s just absolutely unimaginable. This is the absolute worst nightmare for our entire existence in Mexico…and we never thought it was possible.”
There has been some early debate amongst locals and family members whether the victims were targeted, thought to be a rival drug cartel, or if they were caught in the crossfire between two cartels in the area.
Julian LeBaron a cousin of one of the victims, and an outspoken fundamentalist activist against the cartels in Mexico, spoke with reporters today and explained what transpired.
“It was a massacre,” LeBaron said.
The vehicle the victims were traveling in was set on fire while they were still inside. LeBaron also told global news outlet, AFP, “the attack took place in a ‘war zone’ — home to drug cartels and thugs.”
“[My family] may have been caught in crossfire or targeted by mistake, we don’t know the cause.” He explained. “The Mormon community had recently been the target of threats.”
No further details have been disclosed about what those specific threats may have been and why they were directed at the Mormon community specifically.
However, the AFP reported that it is not the first time the family has been targeted by the cartels.
AFP said in their report that “Julian LeBaron’s sibling, Benjamin, founder of crime-fighting group SOS Chihuahua was killed in 2009 in neighboring Chihuahua after he led protests over the kidnapping of their 16-year-old brother.”
At the time of the kidnapping, “the Mormons refused to pay the ransom and the young LeBaron was ultimately released.”
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Fox also reported that, less than ten years ago, two members of the same fundamentalist family who were outspoken about the cartels were kidnapped and ultimately murdered.
This particular fundamentalist group fled the United States to Mexico in the early 19thcentury because they faced persecution for their religious beliefs and practices, which also included the practice of Polygamy, where the spouse of either sex has the ability to have more than one marital partner at a time. In most cases of polygamy, this is a husband taking on more than one wife.
Kenny LeBaron who is another cousin to some of the victims, and a prominent member of the LeBaron family, who are one of the most well known American Mormon families who have relocated to Mexico.
He stated, “When you know there are babies tied in a car seat that are burning because of some twisted evil that’s in this world, it’s just hard to cope with that.”
As news outlets have been reporting for many years, people are fearful to speak out against the cartels in Mexico for fear of their violent retaliations. Be that citizens, politicians or even local authorities.
However, on Tuesday morning, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich appeared on Fox and explained that he feels “the U.S. has been hiding from reality when it comes to the power of Mexican drug cartels and their chokehold on the Mexican government. The cartels have grown richer, stronger, bigger. They are a direct threat to the Mexican government. Much more than the attention we’ve paid to Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan.”
RIP: Twins Tiana and Titus, six months old, were murdered along with their mother Rhonita Maria LeBaron when a Mexican cartel gunman opened fire. At least nine U.S. citizens, including six children were slaughtered in the attack. pic.twitter.com/sDNJggQif5
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) November 5, 2019
Gingrich stressed that, “Mexico is a vital American interest. And our desire to make sure the Mexican government defeats the cartels should be enormous! I hope this will be a wake-up call — that we had better find a way to have a partnership with the Mexican government and help them with whatever intelligence training equipment they need to decisively defeat the cartels who are now, frankly, a state within a state.”
Gingrich also deduced in his interview that he believes that like Lebanon, Mexico is unable to gain control over these groups and that since the U.S. borders Mexico, the country has a “huge interest [in Mexico], much bigger than we do in Syria or a lot of the places we pay attention to. Mexico is a much more important part of our future than those countries are.”
President Trump also responded on Twitter to the attacks on his citizens.
“A wonderful family and friends from Utah got caught between two vicious drug cartels, who were shooting at each other, with the result being many great American people killed, including young children, and some missing. If Mexico needs or requests help in cleaning out these monsters, the United States stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively. The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!”
Unfortunately, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador does not agree with Trump that war is the solution.
In the last three months alone:
9 Americans ambushed and killed in Sonora, Mexico
13 killed in failed operation to capture cartel leader in Sinaloa
14 police officers slain in Michoacan
27 people burned to death in Veracruz bar attack
19 bodies dumped in one day in Michoacan
— Kate Linthicum (@katelinthicum) November 5, 2019
In a Tuesday morning news conference he explained that unlike the administrations before him, he would not turn to violence to overcome the cartels.
“The worst thing you can have is war. We declared war, and it didn’t work. That is not an option.”
The U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Christopher Landrau, also tweeted that his office is following this closely, and that “the security of our co-nationals is our great priority.”
The investigation into the attack is ongoing, details are still coming in, and it is reported that more family members are still missing from the convoy, also feared murdered.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement Tuesday saying, “The safety and welfare of U.S. citizens abroad is among the Department of State’s top priorities. When a U.S. citizen is missing or passes away overseas, we engage with local officials at multiple levels and provide all appropriate consular assistance.”
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