4 kidnapped Americans crossed into Mexico to buy medicine, officials say

A member of the Mexican security forces stands next to a white minivan with several bullet holes.
A member of the Mexican security forces stands next to a white minivan with North Carolina plates and several bullet holes, at the crime scene where gunmen kidnapped four U.S. citizens who crossed into Mexico from Texas.
(Associated Press)

Gunmen kidnapped four U.S. citizens who crossed into Mexico from Texas last week to buy medicine and were caught in a shootout that killed at least one Mexican citizen, U.S. and Mexican officials said Monday.

The four were in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates. They came under fire on Friday shortly after entering the city of Matamoros from Brownsville, the southernmost tip of Texas near the Gulf Coast, the FBI said in a statement Sunday.

“All four Americans were placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men,” the FBI said. The bureau is offering a $50,000 reward for the victims’ return and the arrest of the kidnappers.


Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday that the four were going to buy medicine and “there was a confrontation between groups, and they were detained,” without offering details.

A woman driving in Matamoros witnessed what appeared to be the shooting and abduction in broad daylight. She asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal.

In Mexico stronghold of Sinaloa cartel, armed men burn vehicles, storm airport to try to prevent capture of drug lord Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s son.

Jan. 5, 2023

The scene illustrates the terror that has prevailed for years in Matamoros, a city dominated by factions of the Gulf cartel that often fight among themselves. Amid the violence, thousands of Mexicans have disappeared just in Tamaulipas state, where Matamoros is located.

The woman said she saw the white minivan be hit by another vehicle near an intersection, then gunfire rang out.

An SUV rolled up and several armed men hopped out.

“All of a sudden they [the gunmen] were in front of us,” she said. “I entered a state of shock, nobody honked their horn, nobody moved. Everybody must have been thinking the same thing, ‘if we move they will see us, or they might shoot us.’”

She said the gunmen forced a woman, who was able to walk, into the back of a pickup truck. Another person was carried to the truck but could still move his head.


“The other two they dragged across the pavement, we don’t know if they were alive or dead,” she said.

Mexican authorities arrived minutes later.

A map of the Texas-Mexico border.
Gunmen kidnapped four U.S. citizens who crossed into Mexico from Texas last week to buy medicine and were caught in a shootout.
(Associated Press)

A video posted to social media Friday shows men with assault rifles and tan body armor loading four people into the back of a truck in broad daylight. One was alive and sitting up, but the others appeared to be either dead or wounded. At least one person appeared to lift his head from the pavement before being dragged to the truck.

Shootouts in Matamoros were so bad on Friday that the U.S. Consulate issued an alert about the danger. Local authorities warned people to shelter in place. It was not immediately clear how the abductions may have been connected to that violence.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised a radical break with the militarized security strategy of his predecessors, which he blamed for turning Mexico ‘into a cemetery.’ Instead, he has embraced the armed forces with unprecedented fervor.

Aug. 19, 2022

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar said in a statement Monday that the Americans were kidnapped at gunpoint and that an “innocent” Mexican citizen died in the attack. He said various U.S. justice agencies were working with their Mexican counterparts to recover the missing U.S. citizens.

Authorities have provided no other details about who the victims are or where they are from.


President Biden had been informed of the situation, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday. She declined to answer other questions, citing privacy concerns.

Tamaulipas’ chief prosecutor, Irving Barrios, told reporters that a Mexican woman died in Friday’s shootings. He gave no details about her death and did not specify whether she was killed in the same gunfight where the kidnapping took place.

Tamaulipas state police said on social media there were “two armed incidents between unidentified civilians” on Friday.

Victims of violence in Matamoros and other large border cities of Tamaulipas often go uncounted, because the cartels have a history of taking bodies of their own group with them. Local media often avoid reporting on such incidents out of safety concerns, creating an information vacuum.

Photographs from the scene viewed by the Associated Press show a white minivan with the driver’s side window shot out and all of the doors open sitting on the side of the road after apparently colliding with a red SUV.

The State Department’s travel warning for Tamaulipas warns U.S. citizens not to travel there. However, with it being a border city, U.S. citizens who live in Brownsville or elsewhere in Texas frequently cross to visit family, attend medical appointments or shop. It would also be a crossing point for people traveling deeper into Mexico.


As the headquarters of the powerful Gulf cartel, Matamoros was once relatively calm. For years, a night out in Matamoros was also part of the “two-nation vacation” for spring breakers flocking to Texas’ South Padre Island.

Mexico City’s neglected subway spotlights issues of inequality, poor public services and corruption so flagrant it kills. The mayor sent in troops.

Jan. 26, 2023

But increased cartel violence over the last 10 to 15 years frightened away much of that business. Sometimes U.S. citizens are swept up in the violence.

Three U.S. siblings disappeared near Matamoros in October 2014 and were later found shot to death and burned. They had disappeared two weeks earlier while visiting their father in Mexico. Their parents said they had been abducted by men dressed in police gear identifying themselves as “Hercules,” a tactical security unit in the violent border city.