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The Gulf Cartel, one of the largest drug dealing networks in Mexico, handed five of its members to the Tamaulipas state police, along with a letter of apology for the ‘accidental’ shooting of four American tourists last Friday. Two of the Americans were killed on the spot, while the remaining two, one of whom is injured, are receiving treatment in Texas. The incident has received massive media attention, and the apology is likely an effort by the cartel to dissuade a stronger response from law enforcement.

Last Friday, four Americans: Eric Williams, Latavia McGee, Zindell Brown and Shaeed Woodard crossed the Texan border from Brownsville into the city of Matamoros. Ms. McGee was supposed to undergo cosmetic surgery on the other side of the border, with the three accompanying her returning within 15 minutes of dropping her off. Cheryl Orange, who was left stranded on the Texan side after forgetting her identification, informed authorities Saturday after the group had been missing for a day.

What actually transpired in Matamoros was even more tragic than a missing persons case. It turns out that the group had been accidentally mistaken for drug smugglers and shot at by members of the Scorpion gang. Woodard and Brown were ostensibly killed on the spot, along with a Mexican bystander, Areli Pablo Servando, 33, victim of a stray bullet. McGee and Williams survived.

After the shooting, the two were kidnapped by their friends’ killers, and treated for their wounds in an illegal ambulance and clinic now seized by the Tamaulipas state prosecutor’s office. Both were later released by the cartel, and were found in an abandoned ‘wooden house’ around the city, along with the two corpses. The survivors have now safely returned to Texan soil. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Wednesday that U.S. authorities are working with Mexican officials to return the bodies of the two deceased American victims to their families as soon as the autopsy and the official process is completed.

Meanwhile, another discovery was made in the minivan in which the fateful group was travelling when the shooting occurred. Five members of the group were found inside, along with a letter of apology obtained by The Associated Press. The Gulf Cartel, to which the Scorpions belong, identified the five as rogue members who had acted on their own initiative in direct violation of the Cartel’s rule of “respecting the life and well-being of the innocent”. The shooters had allegedly “at all times acted under their own decision-making and lack of discipline.”

This kind of public relations effort by drug cartels is not unknown in Mexico, where they operate as highly organized actors similar to the Italian mafia in the United States. Mexican security analyst David Suacedo explained that the heightened law enforcement attention that comes with an incident like this disrupts the routine drug sales and other activities of the local cartel. He said the letter was an attempt to “Clos[e] this chapter as soon as possible.”

Jerry Wallace, cousin of Eric who was injured in the left leg, said it feels ‘great’ knowing their family member survived, but rejected the apology from the cartel. “It ain’t gonna change nothing about the suffering that we went through,” he said.

On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland pointed the blame for the shooting squarely at the Gulf Cartel and other Mexican drug dealing networks. He 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.”

Anthony Tilghman

Anthony Tilghman, is an 3x Award-winning Photojournalist, Education advocate, Mentor, and Published Author with years of experience in media, photography, marketing and branding. He is the Winner of the...

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