Mexican government officials now believe the people who ambushed and killed nine Americans belonged to “La Línea,” part of the Juárez drug cartel. They said the attackers entered the territory of the rival Sinaloa cartel Sunday near La Mora where the extended LeBaron family lived. They were all members of a breakaway group once associated with the Mormon church. Local police have been on high alert ever since the two cartels engaged in a gun battle early Monday morning. Mexican authorities believe the gunmen opened fire on the family’s three SUVs hours later, first mistaking them for cartel members. But family members, including Max LeBaron, say the group was targeted. “There’s no reason, there’s no logical reason behind it other than the fact they’re just terrorist organizations,” LeBaron told CBS News correspondent Manny Bojorquez. They point out that children traveling with 29-year-old Christina Langford Johnson said she raised her arms to show she was not a threat.
“She put her baby as far down as she could in the vehicle. She got out of the vehicle, she tried to identify that there were women and children there and she got gunned down,” LeBaron said.
Mexican officials say the first SUV was hit by bullets and exploded around 9 a.m. Monday. Two hours later, the two other Suburbans were ambushed about 11 miles down the road. After that shooting, a relative said 13-year-old Devin Langford hid his siblings in bushes and went for help. About six hours later, he arrived in La Mora – 14 miles away – and alerted family members. His uncles were forced to wait for army reinforcements to arrive before they could set out to find the children. A video shows the moment Christina Langford Johnson’s baby, 7-month-old Faith, was found alive in the bullet-riddled SUV 11 hours after the shooting. In total eight children were rescued. Three are still recovering in an Arizona hospital. The Mexican president said he’s open to the U.S. working alongside local authorities in the investigation. Government officials say more than 200 bullet casings found at the scene were manufactured by an U.S.-based gunmaker and are commonly used in military-style assault rifles.
On Wednesday, victims’ relatives were escorted to the place their loved ones died. Video showed an SUV riddled with bullet holes and filled with toys.
Funerals will be held Thursday for Dawna Langford and her two children, as well as Rhonita Miller and her four children, including 8-month-old twins.