American Man Killed in Mexico Border Kidnap Was Jailed in 2015 for ‘Drugs Manufacture’
Greg Woodfield and Aneeta Bhole, Daily Mail, March 8, 2023
Four U.S. citizens who were kidnapped in Mexico by the notorious criminal and drug syndicate Gulf Cartel have lengthy criminal rap sheets.
Latavia McGee, Eric Williams, Zindell Brown and Shaeed Woodard traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border town Matamoros on Friday when they were caught in crossfire and abducted. Brown and Woodard didn’t survive.
DailyMail.com can reveal that Williams was previously busted for ‘distributing crack near a school,’ while McGee has been slapped with ‘unlawful conduct towards a child,’ when her daughter tested positive for amphetamines.
Woodard was charged with the ‘manufacturing and possession’ of drugs and pleaded guilty, while Brown was also charged for ‘possession of marijuana or hashish.’
The four were found in a rundown stash house near a place known as La Lagunona in the town of El Tecolote – about six-and-a-half-miles from where they were taken.
Williams was jailed for 18 months in March, 2017, after being busted 12 months earlier for ‘distributing’ crack cocaine near a school, his arrest affidavit obtained by DailyMail.com reveals.
He was caught in a sting by a confidential informant working for Lake City police department in South Carolina and nailed by video evidence.
Williams was charged with two counts – distribution of cocaine base around March 1, 2016 and distribution of cocaine base within proximity of a school.
Lake City police Major Patrick Miles wrote on the first court arrest report that Williams ‘did, while on Carver Street in the city limits of Lake City, willfully and unlawfully violate the South Carolina Drug law.
‘The defendant did distribute a quantity of crack cocaine to a confidential informant working with the Lake City Police Department.
‘This violation was recorded audio and video and was investigated by the Lake City Police Department Narcotics Division.’
On the second count report, he added: ‘This violation did occur within a half mile radius of Ronald E McNair Junior High School… and was in session at the time of this incident.’
Williams was given credit for 60 days time served from his sentence. He pleaded guilty to the two counts, resulting in other indictments against him not being prosecuted.
These included another charge of distributing cocaine on March 1, 2016 to the same informant, with a further charge that this was near the high school.
Another indictment was that on June 3, 2016, Williams possessed crack cocaine with intent to distribute it near a school.
His arrest affidavit for the latter charges read that he was seized for ‘outstanding narcotic distribution warrants’ and had in his possession ‘a prescription pill bottle with 50 Adderall pills… the bottle did not have the defendant’s name on it.’
The list continued: ‘Several small plastic bags containing a white rock like substance which filed test positive for cocaine base which was recovered from the defendant.’
Williams was also charged with having a loaded .22 caliber handgun in his right rear pocket while he was being frisked in a Lake City street for weapons in September, 2015. The affidavit said: ‘The defendant is a convicted felon and is prohibited from possessing any firearm or ammunition by state law.’
It added: ‘This incident did occur in the yard of 345 Scott Street, a location that the defendant does not reside at and a location that officers have received numerous complaints of drug activity and prostitution.’
Williams was a teenager when he was charged with burglary.
The arrest warrant says that on January 24, 2002, he was with another man ‘who did forcibly enter’ a residence by pushing out an air conditioner unit from a bedroom window.’
But Williams was spotted, positively identified and charged with second degree burglary. He was ‘committed’ to South Carolina’s Youth Offender Act for no more than five years, meaning supervision.
Kidnap survivor Latavia Washington McGee was indicted on March 3, 2016 on five counts of unlawful conduct towards a child, a daughter who was eight at the time.
The arrest warrant said the girl tested positive for drugs on March 2, 2016 after a sample of her hair was collected for analysis after social services became involved in the child’s welfare.
It stated: ‘The child tested positive for amphetamines, cannabinoids, and native THC (marijuana).’
The five counts said Washington placed the girl at ‘unreasonable risk of harm, affecting the child’s life, physical or mental health or safety’.
Washington was given an original sentence of five years in jail, which was suspended.
She was then given a credit of two served at the State Department of Corrections, put on probation for three years and made subject to random drug and alcohol testing at least four times a year.
Shaeed Woodard, who was killed in the horror, had lengthy drug charge sheet with records showing he pleaded guilty to drugs manufacture or possession in September 2015 and was sentenced to 100 days in January 2016 – which was taken as time already served.
The marijuana bust arrest warrant on the street said he was carrying ‘several clear plastic bags of various size and weight that is consistent with distribution… the marijuana was pre-packaged in several clear plastic baggies….
‘The marijuana was recovered from the defendant’s during a frisk for weapons.’
Woodard also spent 72 days in jail in 2009 for his part in a burglary after admitting scaling the roof of a building with two others and getting into a store in East Main St, Lake City in January of that year.
The trio had grabbed clothing and were attempting to flee when they were grabbed by patrol cops.
Lt Roger Tilton wrote on the arrest affidavit for the then 19-year-old: ‘The defendant and two co-defendants did unlawfully enter the business known as Downtown Fashions… the defendant and co-defendants did climb on the roof of the building and enter the store through the air ducts.
‘Once inside they placed several items of clothing and apparel into a white trash bag and attempted to leave the store.
‘They were apprehended by patrol officers as they fled the area. The defendant… admitting his part in this incident.’
His original sentence for third degree burglary was no more than five years in the State Department of Corrections under South Carolina’s Youthful Offenders Act, which was reduced to 18 months on probation with 72 days of time served taken into account. He was also ordered to have weekly drug and alcohol tests for the first six months.
But in October of 2009, Woodard found himself in trouble again for receiving stolen goods with a value less than $1,000. He admitted the offence and in April, 2010 was sentenced to 180 days in the Florence County Detention Center, which he had already served.
An accusation of a violent burglary in July 2007 was handled with a Nolle Pro ruling, meaning it was abandoned.
In March, 2008 he was arrested for having marijuana. Several other drugs allegations were dismissed and not indicted.
He was also accused in the September 2015 of a catch-all charge of distributing, selling or manufacturing a controlled substance near a school, which was dismissed.
Zindell Brown, who was also killed, was accused of domestic violence in the first degree in July 2019, which was determined as Nolle Pro, which means abandoned.
A domestic violence charge in the second degree from the same date was remanded to the magistrates family court in Florence, South Carolina.
The count alleged that he attacked a ‘household member’ Terrane Moore by ‘wrapping a phone cord around her neck and strangling her with it, impeding her breathing and airflow, and causing lasting physical injuries.
A previous domestic violence in the second degree accusation a year before was dismissed and not indicted, according to court documents.
The nightmare trip to Mexico had been for McGee’s cosmetic tummy tuck surgery relatives claiming the group traveled together to share the driving load.
Local outlets have reported a fifth had been with the group before she was denied entry at the border for not having the correct identification documents.
Family members of Brown revealed that he had been reluctant to travel south of the border.
‘Zindell kept saying, ‘We shouldn’t go down,’ Brown’s sister Zalandria said in a phone interview with AP.
Zalandria, who lives in Florence, SC, said his death has been ‘like a bad dream you wish you could wake up from.’
‘To see a member of your family thrown in the back of a truck and dragged, it is just unbelievable,’ she added.
Brown and Woodard’s bodies were repatriated back to the U.S. on Wednesday from a Forensic Medical Service morgue in Matamoros.
When rescued – McGee was seen barefoot and covered in dirt – the trauma of the incident evident on her face.
She survived the ordeal with Williams who was shot in the left leg, according to Mexican officials, the others did not survive.
Mexican officials said they believe the incident could have been a case of ‘mistaken identity’ and could be connected to the notorious ‘Gulf Cartel’ who are prominent in the region.
At least one person has been arrested in connection with the incident and the surviving Americans were taken to the border near Brownsville, Texas, in a convoy of Mexican ambulances and SUVs on Tuesday.
They were then delivered to U.S. consulate officials.
Williams, who survived with non-life-threatening gunshot wounds to his legs, had not told his wife Michelle that he’d been traveling outside of the country.
‘I didn’t know that he was traveling to Mexico,’ she told WBTW. ‘I just knew he was going somewhere to help two friends.’
She said she had not heard from him since Friday, explaining how he texted her in the morning ‘and I texted him back immediately.
‘He didn’t respond,’ Michelle revealed.
‘He didn’t respond to our son either, so I’m going to assume that’s when they were ambushed.’
She added: ‘I highly doubt they thought this could have happened to them.’
In a press conference on Tuesday afternoon the Governor of Tamaulipas, Américo Villarreal Anaya, who broke news of the two surviving Americans at a separate press conference in the morning, confirmed the identity of the person arrested.
’24-year-old Jose ‘N’ was arrested. He was in charge of monitoring the victims,’ he said, noting the victims ‘were found in a house near a place known as La Lagunona in the town of El Tecolote in Matamoros.
‘During the three days after the criminal act, the four people were transferred to various places, including a clinic in order to create confusion and avoid rescue work,’ he said.
Officials in Mexico would not confirm whether the person detained in relation to the kidnapping is related to the criminal organization ‘Gulf Cartel,’ which is known to operate in the region.
Mexican officials said that the group arrived in Matamoros at 9:18am and were caught up in the terrifying ambush, hours after arriving in town, at 11:45am.
Tamaulipas State Attorney General Irving Barrios said that information related to the kidnapping surfaced online and that videos and pictures shared by people helped in the rescue.
At the time authorities didn’t know that the victims were Americans, he added.
Once officials had identified U.S. license plates on the minivan the group had been traveling in, Mexican authorities reached out to their U.S. counterparts.
Mexican authorities said they were able to scan public surveillance cameras in the area to determine ‘the number of cartel vehicles that were involved in the attack.’
He said that they scanned medical facilities in Matamoros in hopes of finding the kidnapping victims earlier but to no avail.
Defense Secretary General Louis Sandoval was asked about kidnappings on both sides of the border, especially in the U.S. where victims are then taken into Mexico to seek ransom.
‘Tamaulipas has been a state where violence, the presence of groups has been important,’ he said.
‘It should be noted during the current administration a security strategy was established and very specific objectives were set for Tamaulipas, for the border, to take care of the border.
‘The security strategy that was implemented has given very good results, I don’t have the stats here right now, but the number of intentional homicides has dropped in Tamaulipas thanks to this strategy.
‘The participation of the army, the strategy of the air force has been important.’
Governor Américo Villarreal said that there has been close attention on the incident and medical support was provided to surviving victims while the Mexican president vowed those responsible will be ‘punished.’
‘Those responsible are going to be found, they are going to be punished,’ President López Obrador said.
The Tamaulipas State Attorney General’s Office said that the four American citizens were found at about 7:30am Tuesday, four days after going missing.
In the lead up to the rescue, Mexican newspaper Milenio cites law enforcement officials were investigating whether the group was kidnapped by members of the ‘Gulf Cartel,’ a notoriously violent gang run by a feared leader known as La Kena.
Former Attorney General Bill Barr said the US authorities should treat the gangs the same way they do ISIS when negotiating for Americans’ release.
‘They are terrorists,’ he said during an appearance on Fox News last night.
‘The Mexican government is being held hostage by tens of thousands of paramilitary members of terrorist organizations that effectively control Mexico.’
And as spring breakers pack their bikinis and sunglasses to hit the beach in Mexico, the US government has urged citizens to avoid cartel hotspots amid a spike in violence.
‘It’s pretty close at this stage to a failed narco-state,’ he said.
‘They can use violence and oceans of cash to corrupt the government. The government has no will, and it doesn’t have the ability to deal with the cartels.’
Republican representatives Dan Crenshaw, of Texas, and Michael Waltz, of Florida, recently introduced a bill that would give Biden ‘authority to use the U.S. military against these cartels in Mexico.’
In response, Ricardo Monreal tweeted the following yesterday: ‘My response to the representative from Texas @DanCrenshawTX is direct and clear: I reject all foreign interference in the internal affairs of Mexico, and also the claim to apply United States laws in our country. It’s called ‘Sovereignty.’ Even if Crenshaw doesn’t get it.’
Le Kena leads the Gulf Cartel and is also known as Ciclon 19. His real name is Alberto García Vilano.
Mexican authorities have been hunting him for months and are offering a reward of 2.5million pesos for any information that could lead to his arrest.
White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday during a news briefing that the Biden administration had been ‘closely following the assault and kidnapping of four U.S. citizens.’
‘These sorts of attacks are unacceptable,’ she said, adding that U.S. law enforcement was in touch with Mexican authorities, as were the departments of State and Homeland Security.
The FBI and Mexican law enforcement are investigating, with the bureau asking the public for information leading to arrests.
The State Department has a ‘Do Not Travel’ warning in place for Tamaulipas state due to ‘crime and kidnapping.’
It said organized crime activity, including gun battles, armed robberies and kidnappings, are common along the border and in Ciudad Victoria.
‘Criminal groups target public and private passenger buses, as well as private automobiles traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers and demanding ransom payments,’ the warning states.