Six children and three mothers were shot and burned to death by Mexican drug cartel gunmen Monday — a ruthless massacre of U.S. citizens that pushed President Trump to say it’s time to “wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth.”
The self-described Mormons living in northern Mexico were traveling along a dirt road in three SUVs when they were ambushed by cartel gunmen, authorities said. The gunmen, officials added, may have mistaken the SUVs for those of rival gangs. The Sinaloa cartel has been engaged in a turf war there.
The children killed included 8-month-old twins. The other children were ages 2, 10, 11 and 12. The three mothers were ages 30, 31 and 43.
Two of the families had set out to see relatives in northern Mexico. The other mother was driving to Arizona to pick up her husband from the airport.
“They never made it,” family member Kendra Miller wrote on Facebook. “They were ambushed by the Mexican cartels; shot, burned, and murdered in cold blood. These were innocent civilians, American citizens simply trying to live peaceful lives.”
She added, “Nita (Rhonita Miller, 30) and the four of her seven children she had taken on the trip were burned to mostly ashes and only a few charred bones left to identify that all five had been inside. It appeared that one tried to escape as the front passenger door was open and the remains were partially in and out of the vehicle.”
Christina Langford Johnson, 31, was killed after jumping out of her car and waving her hands to show she wasn’t a threat. Her 7-month-old daughter in the bullet-hole riddled SUV was miraculously uninjured.
“Somehow she had remained untouched, and alive,” Kendra wrote. “She was in her car seat, which looked to have been hurriedly placed on the floor of the vehicle by her mother for protection.”
Eight children survived the attack. They escaped from the cars and hid in the brush for hours. Five injured children were transported to a Phoenix hospital.
President Trump tweeted Tuesday, “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!”
Trump added, “This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth. We merely await a call from your great new president!”
But Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said his predecessors waged war “and it didn’t work.” The two leaders spoke by telephone Tuesday, and Trump offered U.S. assistance “to ensure the perpetrators face justice,” the White House said.
The victims lived in La Mora, which was founded decades ago by an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many La Mora residents call themselves Mormons but are not affiliated with a church.
All of the victims were apparently related to the LeBaron family. Benjamin LeBaron, an anti-crime activist who founded neighborhood patrols against cartels, was killed in 2009.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.
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