Early Monday morning, three mothers traveling with 14 children between them were ambushed and gunned down in Mexico by drug cartel members near the United States Arizona border. Here’s what we know so far:
1. One car was shot until it exploded and caught on fire.
Rhonita Miller and four of her seven children were shot in their car, which then exploded and caught on fire. Their remains were burned to ashes except for a few bones, enough to identity all five of them were in the vehicle.
State authorities said more than 200 bullet casings were found near the vehicles.
2. Mother Christina Langford Johnson jumped out of her car to plead with cartel.
Christina Langford Johnson, 31, allegedly jumped out of her vehicle as the attackers shot from the road ahead, waving her arms in an attempt to let the cartel know it was innocent women and children in the vehicles.
“They shot her anyway,” said Lenzo Widmar, a cousin of the victims. “They knew it was women and children.”
3. A 13-year-old boy survivor walked six hours for help.
Devin Langford, the second oldest of the the nine Langford children who were traveling with their mother, Dawna Ray Langford, hid his surviving siblings under branches in nearby bushes before leaving to find help. Devin walked 14 miles back to La Mora, where he arrived at 5:30 p.m. delivering news of the deadly attack.
The oldest Langford sibling, 14-year-old Kylie Evelyn Langford, was shot in the foot and stayed with the younger siblings. When Devin didn’t return quickly, Kylie sent 9-year-old Mckenzie Rayne Langford to search for help. After two hours of looking, a search party composed of family members and Mexican officials found Kylie late Monday evening.
4. The 7-month-old baby miraculously survived in a strategically placed car seat.
Faith Marie Johnson, 7 months old, was found alive and unscathed in a vehicle riddled with bullet holes. Her car seat had been placed on the floor of the vehicle, presumably moved by her mother for protection.
“When they started shooting, she ducked down and put the baby behind the seat,” Kenny LeBaron, a cousin, told the Washington Post. “I think it was a miracle.”
4. It’s unclear whether the attack was targeted or not.
Cousin Lenzo Widmar told the Washington Post that many cartel rivals have been fighting in the area recently, but have directed no recent threats at their community in La Mora.
A family friend who created a GoFundMe page for the family said, “We are a community of US citizens that live and operate between Mexico and the United States we are under attack as we speak by the cartels in Mexico.”
Some reports have tied the murders to the family’s history of run-ins with the cartel, including the 2009 kidnapping of 16-year-old Eric LeBaron. Still, other relatives have told reporters they believe the attacks were a case of mistaken identity by drug cartel gunmen and commented on the oddity of an attack in broad daylight. No suspects or motives have been publicly named.
5. Mexican President Obrador resists reacting with force.
After President Trump tweeted at Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that U.S. troops were standing by to take down the cartel, Obrador thanked Trump but said pursuing the criminals was “a matter of sovereignty” for Mexico.
“We don’t think that by opening fire, massacring, using force, blood, and fire, we will resolve this problem,” Obrador said at a press conference.
Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, both from Utah, have called on Obrador to ensure justice after the massacre.
Ann and I are heartbroken for the victims of the horrific attacks in Mexico. Our prayers are with their families who have suffered such an unspeakable tragedy. The U.S. must work with Mexican officials to hold accountable those responsible for this senseless violence.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) November 5, 2019