Four US citizens who were assaulted and kidnapped at gunpoint Mexico have been found – two of them alive and two dead, according to officials.

The FBI on Sunday issued an appeal and a $50,000 reward for tips leading to the return of the victims and the arrest of their captors.

Family members identified the Americans as Latvia “Tay” McGee, Shaeed Woodard, Zindell Brown and Eric James Williams, who traveled from South Carolina for a tummy tuck.

Officials said the group crossed the U.S. border into Mexico on March 3. Not long after entering Matamoros – an area dominated by the Gulf cartel – they came under fire from a group of gunmen and were bundled into the back of a pickup truck.

On Tuesday, Mexican authorities announced that two of the victims had been found dead, one injured and the fourth unharmed. The identities of the two dead have not been released.

Here’s everything we know about the terrifying case so far:

Left behind on arrival from Texas

According to the US Embassy and Consulate in Mexico, the group had crossed into the northeastern Gulf Coast state of Tamaulipas from Brownsville, Texason March 3 was driving a white minivan with North Carolina license plates.

Shortly after entering the country, they were attacked by armed men in the border town of Matamoros.

After firing at the van, the attackers then moved the occupants to another vehicle and drove them away from the scene, the embassy said.

On Monday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the group was in the country to buy medicine.

A photo purportedly shows the white minivan from which four Americans were abducted on March 3, 2023 in Matamoros, Mexico

(White Elephant)

“The information we have is that they crossed the border to buy medicines in Mexico, there was a confrontation between groups and they were arrested,” the president said. “The whole government is working on it.”

An unnamed US official said the four Americans were not the intended targets and they had traveled to Matamoros for medical procedures.

The video is said to show the attack

A video widely shared on social media, allegedly filmed in the city on Friday, shows people being dragged and dumped into the back of a white flatbed truck parked in the middle of a busy street by gunmen wearing bulletproof vests.

The video has not been officially verified and the FBI has not publicly commented on it.

Matamoros is notorious as a center for gang violence and illegal migrant smuggling and is dominated by the Gulf drug cartels.

(The Independent/Datawrapper)

Tamaulipas state police said on their social media channel that people had been killed and wounded in two shootings in Matamoros on Friday in which neither the military nor the police had been involved, but did not provide further details about the shootings or say whether the kidnappings were connected.

“There have been two armed incidents between unidentified civilians,” it said. “The exact death toll is being confirmed.”

Photographs of the abandoned car, with visible bullet holes, have since been released.

A member of the Mexican security forces stands next to the white minivan belonging to the four kidnapped Americans in Matamoros


Victims identified

The Americans involved were is identified by their loved ones such as Zindell Brown, Shaeed Woodard, LaTavia “Tay” McGee and Eric James Williams, all of whom are from South Carolina. Williams’ North Carolina driver’s license was reportedly found at the scene.

Christina Hickson, mother of Mr. Brown, told WPDE that her son had gone on the trip to support a friend who was having a medical procedure in Mexico and said she recognized him in photos of the shocking incident.

“I knew right away it was him. And you know even when I see them put them on the back of the truck. I could follow each one as they were going to be placed on the truck,” Hickson said.

“The waiting is the worst part. It has its pros and cons. But no news is good news. That’s how I hang on. No news is good news and that’s what will give me the audacity to.”

Brown’s sister Zalandria Brown told the Associated Press: “This is like a bad dream you wish you could wake up from.”

(Family handout)

(Shaeed Woodard/Facebook)

Barbara Burgess, 54, Ms McGee’s mother, told ABC News that it was her daughter who was visiting Mexico for a tummy tuck and that she had warned her about going but she insisted she would be fine.

US officials have not yet formally identified the four.

Official answer

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday night that the Biden administration is “closely following the assault and kidnapping,” adding, “Our thoughts go out to the families of these individuals and we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance.”

Ken Salazar, the US ambassador to Mexico, revealed in a statement that an innocent Mexican bystander had also been killed in the incident, declaring: “We have no higher priority than the safety of our citizens. This is the most fundamental role of the US government.”

He tweeted that the embassy is working with Mexican authorities to secure the release of the Americans.

Less measured in responding was the Republican populist congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greenewho called for military measures for retail trade against drug cartelswho she said were “terrorists”, comparing them to Isis and, absurdly, Antifa.

Americans advised against travel

The United States Department of State have advised Americans not to travel to Tamaulipas due to the risk of crime and kidnapping, with the region on its “Level 4: Do Not Travel” list.

The US Consulate in Matamoros issued an alert to its employees on Friday in response to the latest outbreak of violence.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI San Antonio Division at 210-225-6741 or to submit tips anonymously online here.