Contrary to our expectations, the slaying of nine members of a Mormon community living in Northern Mexico at the hands of Mexican cartel gunmen seems to have already dropped out of the news cycle, perhaps because it’s already become clear that neither the US nor Mexico is planning to hold the attackers accountable.
Senior Mexican security officials who are obviously worried about more bad press insist that the attack was a case of mistaken identity. But keep in mind, these are the same people who initially told the world that federal police just happened to stumble upon the son of El Chapo in Culiacan (denying that his arrest had been the target of an organized operation).
Security Minister Alfonso Durazo, whose name has been in the press frequently in the aftermath of the attack, said earlier this week that the gunmen may have attacked the women because they suspected they were members of a rival gang during a period of intense turf wars.
In this incident, however, there could be serious consequences to believing the wrong thing. There are many other American-Mexican Mormons living in the area, part of a community that has been growing in the area since the 1940s. And apparently almost none of them believe the government’s theory that the attack was an accident.
“It was no accident. It was deliberate,” said Loretta Miller, 53, the mother-in-law of the victim Rhonita Miller and grandmother of her four dead children. “We just don’t know why our family was targeted.”
The victims, who were buried on Thursday, included three women and six children, some newborn babies. They were traveling in a caravan of three vans when suspected cartel gunmen rained down a hail of gunfire.
Eight other children survived the attacks, many with serious gunshot wounds.
100s of community members attended the service for one of the murdered mothers and her two young sons on Thursday, forming a long line at the funeral parlor in the mountains of Mexico’s Sonora state. The eulogies for Dawna Ray Langford caused many the audience to tear up.
Many hugged each other tightly. Sons, a daughter, her parents and other relatives, many in tears, eulogized Ms. Langford, who had 13 children and two grandchildren. “She never once made a selfish decision,” said Crystal Langford, her daughter, in tears. “It was always for her kids and her family.”
“She was a fighter,” said Karen Woolley, her mother, as she remembered the day she gave birth to Ms. Langford.
Services for another six victims – four children and two mothers – were being held here, but their remains will be taken back for burial at Colonia LeBarón, a community formed decades ago by a dissident faction of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Services for the other six victims will be held during the coming days. Some of the speakers, particularly relatives of the deceased, angrily called on all Mexicans to resist the cartels.
Members of the community lived peacefully alongside the cartel for years, passing through cartel checkpoints has become a fact of life for many. But some of the children who survived the massacre described how Christina Marie Langford, one of the three mothers killed, jumped out of the car with her hands up, but was shot down anyway.
Whatever happened that day, many of the residents of La Mora and Colonia LaBaron, the villages where the community lives, are contemplating moving back to the US.