By Christopher Sherman
MATAMOROS, Mexico — Three U.S. citizens missing for more than two weeks have been found shot to death in Mexico near the border city of Matamoros, and authorities are questioning a local police unit about possible involvement, the attorney general in northern Tamaulipas state said Thursday.
The father of the three, Pedro Alvarado, identified his children from photographs of the bodies showing tattoos, Attorney General Ismael Quintanilla Acosta told Radio Formula. Clothing found with the bodies also matched that of Erica Alvarado Rivera, 26, and brothers, Alex, 22, and Jose Angel, 21, who had been visiting their father in Mexico and disappeared Oct. 13 along with Jose Guadalupe Castaneda Benitez, Erica Alvarado’s 32-year-old boyfriend.
Each was shot in the head and the bodies were burned, Quintanilla said, most likely from lying in the hot sun for so long.
Parents of the siblings have said witnesses reported they were seized by men dressed in police gear identifying themselves as “Hercules,” a tactical security unit in the violent border city heavily racked by cartel infighting. Quintanilla said at a news conference Thursday that nine of the unit’s 40 officers are being questioned.
“We will apply the full force of the law and zero tolerance,” Gov. Egidio Torre Cantu said, lamenting the death of the four, even though their identities had yet to be confirmed by DNA.
It would the third recent case of abuse and killing by Mexican authorities if police are involved. The country already is engulfed in the case of 43 teachers college students missing in southern Guerrero state at the hands of a mayor and police working with a drug cartel. Fifty-six people are under arrest, including dozens of police officers.