MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW/AP/CBS) — Two of the four Americans who were kidnapped in Mexico last week have been found dead, while one was wounded and another was uninjured, according to the Associated Press, citing Mexican officials.
One of the four Americans kidnapped is from Myrtle Beach and has family members living in the Pee Dee, according to the AP. Officials have not identified the two who were found dead.
Lake City officials said all four of those who were kidnapped are native to Lake City. In a news briefing Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Yamekia Robinson issued a statement offering condolences to all of the families involved, but directed all questions to the U.S. Department of State.
The South Carolina House stood for a prayer Tuesday in response to the kidnappings. Rep. Roger Kirby (D-Florence) said that three of the victims are from Lake City, according to The State newspaper in Columbia.
The surviving Americans were back on U.S. soil after being sped to the border near Brownsville, the southernmost tip of Texas, in a convoy of ambulances and SUVs escorted by Mexican military Humvees and National Guard trucks with mounted machine guns.
Tamaulipas Gov. Américo Villarreal said the four were found in a wooden shack, where they were being guarded by a man who was arrested. Villarreal said the captive Americans had been moved around by their captors, and at one point were taken to a medical clinic “to create confusion and avoid efforts to rescue them.”
The two dead will be turned over to U.S. authorities following forensic work at the Matamoros morgue in the coming hours, the governor said.
Villareal said the wounded American, Eric Williams, had been shot in the left leg and the wound was not life threatening. The survivors were taken to Valley Regional Medical Center with an FBI escort, the Brownsville Herald reported. A spokesperson for the hospital referred all inquiries to the FBI.
The U.S. citizens were found in a rural area east of Matamoros called Ejido Tecolote on the way to the Gulf coast known as “Bagdad Beach,” according to Tamaulipas state chief prosecutor Irving Barrios.
Zindell Brown, who lives in Myrtle Beach, was identified as one of the four victims of the kidnapping by his sister, Zalandria Brown, who lives in Florence, the AP said.
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Mexican officials said a Mexican woman also had died in Fridays’ crossfire.
Authorities have said Zindell Brown was with Latavia “Tay” McGee, Shaeed Woodard and Eric James Williams when they were kidnapped in an area of the country dominated by factions of the powerful Gulf drug cartel. They were traveling in a white van with a North Carolina license plate, and entered the city of Matamoros from Brownsville, at the southernmost tip of Texas.
The wife of Williams said authorities called her Tuesday morning and told her two of the travelers were dead, but authorities did not say which two, according to CBS News. She told CBS News that Woodard is McGee’s cousin, while Williams and Brown are their childhood friends.
Robert Williams said in a telephone interview that his brother, 38-year-old Eric Williams, was among the kidnapped Americans. The brothers are from South Carolina but now live in the Winston-Salem area of North Carolina, he said.
Williams described his brother as “easygoing” and “fun-spirited.”
He didn’t know his brother was traveling to Mexico until after the abduction hit the news. But from looking at his brother’s Facebook posts, he thinks his brother did not consider the trip dangerous.
“He thought it would be fun,” Williams said. He hadn’t heard anything about his brother’s whereabouts, he said.
Zalandria Brown told the AP that Zindell and two friends were with a third friend who was going to Mexico for a “tummy tuck” cosmetic surgery. She said that she had been in contact with the FBI and local officials after learning that her younger brother was one of the four victims.
“This is like a bad dream you wish you could wake up from,” she said in a phone interview with the AP. “To see a member of your family thrown in the back of a truck and dragged, it is just unbelievable.”
Brown said the group made the trip together so they could split the driving duties. They were aware of the dangers in Mexico, she said, and her brother had expressed some misgivings.
“Zindell kept saying, ‘We shouldn’t go down,’” Brown said.
The four got caught in a deadly shootout and were kidnapped by heavily armed men who threw them in the back of a pickup truck, officials from both countries said on Monday.
A video posted to social media Friday showed men with assault rifles and tan body armor loading the four people into the bed of a white pickup in broad daylight. One was alive and sitting up, but the others seemed 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 and local authorities warned people to shelter in place. It was not immediately clear how the abductions may have been connected to that violence.
Authorities have provided no other details about the victims.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland expressed his sympathy for the families of the victims.
“The cartels are responsible for the deaths of Americans,” Garland said. “The DEA and the FBI are doing everything possible to dismantle and disrupt and ultimately prosecute the leaders of the cartels and the entire networks that they depend on.”
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the U.S. is working with Mexican officials to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the killings.
Information from the Associated Press was included in this story.
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Dennis Bright is a digital producer at News13. Dennis is a West Virginia native and graduate of Marshall University. He has won copyediting and journalism awards in Virginia and Ohio. Follow Dennis on Twitter and read more of his work here.