Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, MEXICO – Members of a drug cartel attacked an American family just south of Texas as they were returning home from a holiday visit with family.
The family was traveling in a Chevrolet SUV with Oklahoma plates on Saturday night when they were attacked, the Associated Press reported.
The Attorney General’s Office in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas said that a 13-year-old child, who was a citizen of the United States, had been killed by the gunmen.
Three other people who were inside the vehicle were wounded, CBS News reported.
Although officials have not yet released the names of the victims, the Tamaulipas Attorney General’s Office said the murdered child’s parents were permanent residents of the United States.
The family had just finished celebrating the New Year with family in San Luis Potosi, CBS News reported.
El Diario reported that authorities believed the gunmen who attacked the family were members of the Cartel de Noreste.
The highway where the incident occurred is considered a “high risk” route through an area disputed by multiple criminal cartels, CBS News reported.
Nine American women and children were murdered in northern Mexico in November after cartel members attacked their caravan of cars.
The victims were all part of a Mormon community of U.S.-Mexican dual citizens who were traveling from Bavispe, in the Mexican state of Sonora, to attend a wedding in Janos, Chihuahua, CNN reported.
Reports said that the incident occurred after one of the vehicles, driven by Maria Ronita LeBaron, got a flat tire and the other two vehicles turned back to get help, The Washington Post reported.
As they waited for help to return, the vehicle was attacked by cartel members who slaughtered Maria Ronita LeBaron and her four children, including six-month-old twin babies.
When the other two vehicles returned, they were ambushed, The Washington Post reported.
A man related to some of the victims said that three women, four small children, and two infants were murdered.
“Women and children - between 14 years old and 10 months - were massacred, burnt alive,” Alex LeBaron told CNN. “Mothers were screaming for the fire to stop.”
“We are a very tight-knit community, we share everything that’s happening. We’ve been dealing with this tragedy since early yesterday. We share all information within our family groups,” Alex LeBaron explained.
He said seven injured children had been airlifted to Douglas, Arizona and transported to Tucson hospitals, CNN reported.
Julian LeBaron told The Washington Post that he found another family member, Christina Langford Johnson, dead.
“I found Christina. She was outside her car, face down, assassinated, and I found her baby, who was still alive,” Julian LeBaron said.
Prosecutors announced at the start of 2020 that seven arrests had been made in the case although all of the charges so far are for drug trafficking and nobody has been charged with homicide, CBS News reported.
One of the men arrested has the same name as the local police chief, who was reportedly being paid by members of the La Linea drug gang.
Mexican laws prohibit prosecutors from identifying suspects by their full names, CBS News.
But LeBaron confirmed the police chief had been arrested, and added "that should be very worrying to everyone."
"Who vets them?" he asked. "[The police chief] was there for 13 years."
Members of LeBaron’s extended family have complained that Mexico's strict gun laws prohibited them from protecting themselves legally by having firepower equal to what the drug cartels and corrupt police were using against them, CBS News reported.
"The police have a local monopoly on weapons and they participate in the murder of women and children," LeBaron said.