Six children and three women are reportedly dead after a prominent Mormon family of dual Mexican and American citizens were shot and torched in a brazen attack in Mexico by gangsters whom President Donald Trump called “monsters” on Tuesday.
An El Universal report said security officials presume the attack on the prominent LeBarón family was part of an ambush carried out by organized criminals.
“A wonderful family and friends from Utah got caught between two vicious drug cartels, who were shooting at each other, with the result being many great American people killed, including young children, and some missing,” Trump said in reaction to the attack on Twitter Tuesday morning.
“If Mexico needs or requests help in cleaning out these monsters, the United States stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively. The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!” he added.
The victims are all related to the prominent anti-kidnapping activist Julián LeBarón, who began speaking out against kidnappings after his brother Benjamin was killed in 2009.
Citing interviews with two family members, El Universal said the events began unfolding at about 9:30 a.m. Monday when the three women, identified by other family members as Rhonita Miller LeBarón, Dawna Langford and Christina Langford, along with their 14 children left Bavispe, Sonora, for the Mormon community of La Mora, which is about four hours away from Galeana in Chihuahua.
While they were traveling, a vehicle that was being driven by Rhonita in which she was transporting four of her children – twins and two other children aged 8 and 10 – suffered a flat. The other women decided to return to Bavispe to get another car for Rhonita while she waited for help with her children. On their return to the place where they left Rhonita, however, they noticed a plume of smoke.
When they finally got to the scene, they noticed that Rhonita and her children were burnt inside her car and soon the other women along with their 10 children came under heavy gunfire. They were forced to run to safety in various directions.
Christina, Dawna and five of their children were quickly cut down in a hail of bullets. Five other children led by the eldest of the group are still missing, according to El Universal.
In an update posted by Jasmin Soulsby, another family member, on Facebook Monday night, she said the five minors had been rescued.
“Rhonita Miller and her two oldest children, Howard and Crystal, along with her twins Titus and Tiana were all shot and burned to death. Dawna Langford has been killed along with two of her children. Christina Langford was killed, but her baby girl Faith, who they thought was dead, was miraculously found alive on the floor of her suburban. She has been there all day alone,” Soulsby explained.
“Five Of Dawnas children were hiding in the mountains wounded from gunshots, while their older brother (13 yrs) raced down the mountain several miles all day running to find rescue for his family. They finally brought the five children home but were unable to find nine year old McKenzie who was shot in the back and lost in the wilderness. They have at last found McKenzie and she is okay!
"This has been a nightmare but we are grateful for the children that survived. We will continue to share this story and will fight to bring justice to our innocent women and children who were massacred today,” she said.
The Herald of Mexico reported that Rhonita’s vehicle caught fire after bullets hit the gas tank.
In a series of posts to his Facebook page in the immediate aftermath of the attack, including video of the torched vehicle in which Rhonita and her four children were killed along the road in La Mora, Lafe Langford Jr., another family member, begged for help.
“To the citizens of the United States Of America, Mexico and to HUMAN BEINGS across the world….it is with heavy hearts and unspeakable sadness we inform you that the 2 missing Mothers Christina Langford and Dawna Langford along with many of their precious INNOCENT children have been slaughtered and gone to their Rest,” Lafe Langford wrote.
“We've had no help from the powers and authorities that be as of yet ....one of the older boys escaped with 6 of his siblings and he was able to run home to La Mora Municipio Bavispe Sonora Mexico after leaving his wounded, bleeding, and bullet ridden brothers and sisters hiding behind trees from the ONGOING shootout between the cartels. Teenagers and adults have been scrambling into the mountains to find our loved ones…risking their very own lives....while help is nowhere to be found... GOD HELP US IN JESUS NAME WE PRAY.”
According to El Universal, the gang members who attacked the LeBarón family interrupted all communication in the region and created a security fence around the area of the attack which prevented local security forces from intervening.
It was not until around 7:00 p.m. Monday, the publication said, that members of the LeBarón family were able to approach the area to confirm what happened. One relative said gang members from Chihuahua and Sonora have been at war for two months and alleged that the attack against the LeBarón family was perpetrated by the group from Chihuahua.
In an interview with The New York Times on the attack on his family, Julián LeBarón, who is a cousin of the three mothers, said Rhonita was traveling to Phoenix to pick up her husband, who works in North Dakota. He was returning home to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
He said he had no idea what triggered the attack.
“They intentionally murdered those people,” Julian LeBarón said. “We don’t know what their motives were.”
One of his cousins, he said, had reportedly surrendered to her attackers by putting up her hands but “they shot her point blank in the chest” anyway, he said.
“We need the Mexican people to say at some point, we’ve had enough,” he added. “We need accountability; we don’t have that on any level.”