A letter claiming to be from the Mexican drug cartel blamed for abducting four Americans and killing two of them condemned the violence and said the gang turned over to authorities its own members who were responsible.
In a letter obtained by The Associated Press through a Tamaulipas state law enforcement source, the Scorpions faction of the Gulf cartel apologized to the residents of Matamoros where the Americans were kidnapped, the Mexican woman who died in the cartel shootout, and the four Americans and their families.
Drug cartels have been known to issue communiques to intimidate rivals and authorities, but also at times like these to do some public relations work to try to smooth over situations that could affect their business.
"We have decided to turn over those who were directly involved and responsible in the events, who at all times acted under their own decision-making and lack of discipline," the letter reads, adding that those individuals had gone against the cartel's rules, which include "respecting the life and well-being of the innocent."
The white van four Americans were traveling in when they were kidnapped by a Mexican cartel.
A photograph of five men face down on the pavement and bound accompanied the letter, which was shared with The Associated Press by the source on condition that they remain anonymous because they were not authorized to share the document.
State officials did not immediately publicly confirm having new suspects in custody.
A separate state security official said that five men had been found tied up inside one of the vehicles that authorities had been searching for, along with the letter. That official also spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the case.
The cousin of one of the victims said his family feels "great" knowing that Eric Williams, who was shot in the left leg, is alive but does not accept any apologies from the cartel blamed for kidnapping the Americans.
"It ain’t gonna change nothing about the suffering that we went through," Jerry Wallace told The Associated Press on Thursday. Wallace, 62, called for the American and Mexican governments to better address cartel violence.
Last Friday, the four Americans crossed into Matamoros from Texas so that one of them could have cosmetic surgery. Around midday they were fired on in downtown Matamoros and then loaded into a pickup truck.
Another friend, who remained in Brownsville, had called police after being unable to reach the group that crossed the border Friday morning.
National Guard and military vehicles take part in an operation to transfer two of the four US citizens kidnapped in Mexico's crime-ridden northeast, back to Brownsville in the US, after the other two were found dead, in Matamoros, Tamaulipas State, M
Brownsville Police Department spokesman Martin Sandoval said Thursday that officers followed protocol by checking local hospitals and jails after receiving the report of the missing people. A detective was assigned to the case within the hour and then alerted the FBI after realizing the people had crossed into Mexico. Shortly after, the FBI took over the case as social media videos began to show a shootout with the victims matching the description of the missing people.
Authorities located them Tuesday morning on the outskirts of the city, guarded by a man who was arrested. Two of the Americans were dead, one was wounded and the other was unharmed.
On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland blamed the drug cartels for the Americans' deaths.
"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" Garland said.
Also Thursday, the Tamaulipas state prosecutor's office said it had seized an ambulance and a medical clinic in Matamoros that were allegedly used to provide treatment to the Americans after the shooting.
The Americans told investigators they were taken to the clinic in an ambulance to receive first aid, the statement said. By reviewing police surveillance video around the city, authorities were able to identify the ambulance and find the clinic. No arrests were made at the clinic, according to the statement.