Mexican authorities arrested a suspect Tuesday allegedly tied to the kidnapping of four Americans last weekend, leaving two dead after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Jose Guadalupe N., a Mexican national in his early 20’s, was guarding a small wooden house outside the city of Matamoros where cartel members held the Americans when authorities detained him, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Authorities have not confirmed if Guadalupe is involved with the cartel suspected of kidnapping the U.S. nationals Latavia “Tay” McGee, Eric James Williams, Shaeed Woodard, and Zindell Brown.
According to officials in Mexico’s Tamaulipas state, when Mexican authorities discovered the victims kidnapped by the gunmen, Woodard and Brown had been killed.
The announcement was shared on social media, noting that investigations and efforts to capture those responsible are ongoing.
The New York Post reported that Mexican authorities are still searching for a motive for the kidnapping, with one possible theory that the American nationals were confused with Haitian drug smugglers.
The four U.S. citizens were assaulted and kidnapped on Friday after they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Matamoros, Tamaulipas while driving a white minivan with a North Carolina license plate, the FBI said in a statement released through the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.
“Shortly after crossing into Mexico, unidentified gunmen fired upon the passengers in the vehicle,” the statement said. “All four Americans were placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men.”
Following the kidnapping, authorities launched a rescue operation for the group of friends that had traveled from South Carolina to buy medicines.
Relatives of the kidnapped told The Post that the four traveled to Mexico for McGee to undergo medical treatment to remove abdominal fat. After crossing the border into the Matamoros, they were caught in a shootout between rival cartel gangs and eventually forced into the back of a pickup truck at gunpoint.
The kidnappers allegedly moved the victims throughout Tamaulipas to confuse and avoid efforts from authorities to rescue them, Tamaulipas Gov. Américo Villarreal said.
“This tragic incident only highlights a rising preoccupation in the United States about Mexico’s lack of interest in facing down organized crime,” Tony Payan, director of the Center for the U.S. and Mexico at Rice University’s Baker Institute, said, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Payan said the kidnapping “has become a symbol of impunity in Mexico.”
The State Department has a travel advisory on its website that warns U.S. citizens against traveling to Tamaulipas state, located south of Texas, due to “crime and kidnapping.”
The FBI offered a $50,000 reward for the return of the victims and the arrest of those involved.
Daniel Chaitin contributed to this report.