Friend warned police Americans feared missing in Mexico

People comfort each other after a vigil for a group of Americans recently kidnapped in Mexico,...
People comfort each other after a vigil for a group of Americans recently kidnapped in Mexico, at Word of God Ministries in Scranton, S.C., Wednesday, March 8, 2023. Two of the four Americans, all from South Carolina, were killed after being caught in a deadly shootout while traveling last week to Matamoros for one of them to get cosmetic surgery. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)(Sean Rayford | AP)
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 6:18 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2023 at 4:02 PM EST
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(AP/WMBF) - The frantic effort to rescue four Americans taken captive by a cartel in Mexico during a kidnapping that left two dead came after a fifth person who traveled with the group to Texas called police there.

Cheryl Orange told The Associated Press she contacted police in Brownsville, Texas, after her friends crossed the border Friday to drop off one of their companions, who was planning to get cosmetic surgery.

All four Americans are natives of Lake City.

Orange said her three friends were supposed to return within 15 minutes after dropping off their companion, Latavia McGee.

She said she grew concerned as the hours passed and she did not hear from the others.

Mexican authorities said the group was fired on and crashed their van soon after they crossed into Matamoros Friday, as drug cartel factions tore through the streets.


The Americans were hauled off in a pickup truck, and Mexican authorities frantically searched as the cartel moved them around — even taking them to a medical clinic — “to create confusion and avoid efforts to rescue them,” the region’s governor, Américo Villarreal, said Tuesday.

Orange told authorities in Brownsville that she had everyone’s luggage but had been unable to reach them, according to the police report.

“She tried calling their cell phones but they sound turned off,” the report states.

The report said Orange was given a phone number to follow up with criminal investigators on Monday if she hadn’t heard from her friends.

A Brownsville Police Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to AP’s request for comment Wednesday. CNN was the first to report on the police report.

Lake City Mayor Yamekia Robinson confirmed that Shaheed Woodard and Zindell Brown died during the terrifying incident, while McGee and Eric Williams survived.

Williams’ wife told WMBF News that he suffered three gunshots and had to go through surgery after being taken to a hospital in Texas. McGee was left unharmed.