ⓘ 2019 Sonora massacre. On 4 November 2019, about 70 miles south of the Mexico–United States border, gunmen opened fire on a three-car convoy en route to a weddin ..

                                     

ⓘ 2019 Sonora massacre

On 4 November 2019, about 70 miles south of the Mexico–United States border, gunmen opened fire on a three-car convoy en route to a wedding carrying residents of the isolated La Mora community, which is predominantly composed of American Mexican "independent Mormons." Nine people were killed with some burned alive in a car. A drug cartel is believed to be behind the attack.

                                     

1.1. Background Isolated areas settlements

All the victims were from rancho La Mora, Sonora, containing 30 to 40 homes on about a thousand acres, and with a full-time population of about 150 people. The victims religious affiliation is not related to that of another Mormon group, the amorphous Church of the Firstborn, headquartered Colonia Le Baron, Chihuahua, yet they have intermarriage ties with the latter. Among the hundreds of dual-national and bilingual residents within the sibling communities of rancho La Mora and Colonia Le Baron and other settlements, are independent fundamentalist Mormons, members of the Church of the Firstborn, and members of the mainstream Latter-day Saints. In addition, perhaps a few thousand individuals remain aligned with these religious communities who reside in various places within the United States.

Victims descend from settlers who founded Colonia Oaxaca now "Rancho Oaxaca", part of the historical Mormon colonies founded in the late 19th century; the neighboring LeBaron family propers enclave in the state of Chihuahua was founded by Alma LeBaron, who moved there from the United States in the 1920s.

                                     

1.2. Background Narco bands contesting control of areas smuggling routes

Reportedly the La Mora community had achieved a type of understanding with the areas currently dominant outlaw band, Los Salazar, del Cartel de Sinaloa, who allegedly have enjoyed some history of influence with Mexicos federal government and are renowned for its overlordship by its narco-mafiosi celebre El Chapo, who is imprisoned in the US. In months leading up to the attack, Sinaloa instructed residents to refrain from buying fuel across state lines in Chihuahua. Newly arrived enforcers who were unfamiliar to area residents and now manned the smuggling routes usual checkpoints occasionally pointed weapons at residents using the road. Transpiring immediately preceding the massacre was a shootouts between Los Salazar and rival drug-route enforcers La Linea, said to have been formed originally by municipal peace officers from Ciudad Juarez, who are dominant in Chihuahua and were an outgrowth of the Juarez Cartel, and which has been warring with Sinaloa over control of the smuggling routes toward San Diego.

                                     

2. Incident

In a pair of attacks, gunmen opened fire on three SUVs, first upon a Chevrolet Tahoe and subsequently two Chevy Suburbans, that were carrying American Mexican independent fundamentalist Mormons of the extended LeBaron family, en route to a wedding in Le Baron, Galeana, Chihuahua, from their hometown of La Mora, Bavispe, Sonora, about 70 miles 110 km south of the Mexico–United States border. According to Alfonso Durazo, the federal secretary for security, the location of the attack was in the municipality of Bavispe. The first vehicle reportedly left carrying Rhonita Miller and her four children close to 10 AM in the morning. The other two vehicles left around 11 AM, with one being driven by Dawna Ray Langford with nine children as passengers and the other driven by Christina Marie Langford Johnson with her 7-month-old daughter as a passenger.

The gunman reportedly killed Christina Langford Johnson after she jumped out of her vehicle and waved her hands to display she wasnt a threat. Johnson was discovered 15 yards from her vehicle with her 7-month-old baby uninjured in the vehicle. Phone messages between family members showed the progression of discovering the incident. One message stated one of the cars was on fire with bullets all throughout it, and that there were people hiding in the bushes. The burned out vehicle was discovered to hold the bodies of Miller, her 10-year-old daughter, 12-year-old son and infant twins, eleven miles from where the other two women were killed. The vehicle reportedly had broken down due to a flat tire, and was caused to explode by the amount of bullets fired into the vehicle.

Two children, a 13-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, walked away from the scene to get help from relatives, The boy walking fourteen miles over six hours before arriving at the family compound. Prior to leaving, he covered his six surviving siblings in branches after hiding them in bushes. After becoming concerned that the boy had not returned close to nightfall, the girl began to walk herself in an effort find help, walking for six hours.

Search efforts for the survivors began between 6 and 7 PM, with the surviving children being discovered at 8:30 PM, except for the children who walked for help. The last surviving child; the girl who went for help, was discovered at 9:45 PM. Relatives stated that the girl had taken the wrong road and was tracked by her footprints, when she was found she told them; "We have to go back. We have to go back. My siblings, my brothers and sisters are dying. Theyre bleeding, theyre shot. We have to go rescue them."



                                     

3. Victims and survivors

Nine people were killed; three women and six children, all of whom held dual US–Mexican citizenship. The victims of the attack were identified as:

Of the eight other vehicle passengers all were children of which five were wounded and three were physically unharmed. The five wounded children were flown to an Arizona hospital and three uninjured children were placed in the care of other family members. All survivors injuries were caused by gunfire, not from fire or escaping the vehicles.

                                     

4. Aftermath

Family members visited the scene of the massacre, escorted by members of the Mexican Army. The deceased were buried in La Mora and Colonia LeBaron with funerals beginning on November 7. The funerals were attended by hundreds of individuals, with some traveling reportedly as far as North Dakota to attend.

                                     

5. Investigation

Mexican officials announced at a news conference that the believed reason for the attack was that the family was believed to be a cartel convoy of vehicles. Prior in the day the area of the massacre had also been the scene of a shootout between rival cartel gangs. According to the Dallas Morning News s Alfredo Corchado, targeting of the victims may have been due to activism by certain extended LeBaron family members having "over the years been outspoken in their condemnation of criminal groups that hold sway over a wide swath of northern Mexico".

On 5 November, Mexican authorities announced the arrest of a suspect in relation to the massacre, but reported the next day that the suspect was not involved. However, some authorities in Mexico have claimed that the massacre was perpetrated by the newly formed Los Jaguares cartels, an offshoot of the Sinaloa drug cartel. Following the murders, Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico invited participation by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, his saying, "Why did we take that initiative? Because it involves U.S. citizens, and there was no reason not to allow the FBI to have access to the investigations, which we have requested in other cases," his referencing the 2019 El Paso shooting. About two-dozen FBI agents arrived in La Mora, an FBI statements describing the agencys aim as working "alongside our international partners to help bring justice to the perpetrators of this heinous act of violence."

On 19 November Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said, referencing Mexicos history of systemic corruption, "Were not protecting anyone." "Mexico isnt the principal human rights violator now, like it was before. Theres no impunity anymore." Addressing the investigation, Obrador said, "There is information already, but I cant provide that," although offering to meet with the victims families to provide them additional information. "What I can say to them, and to all Mexicans, is that were working on the investigation. And they should have confidence."

Video footage less than a minute in length and perhaps taken by a cell phone perhaps belonging to one of the detained suspects was obtained by Mexican national police. Shown to two relatives of the victims, one of them, Adam Langford, said it showed a dozen or so men presumed as members of the Chihuahua cartel "all in blackthe jefe guy says, Burn it! Burn it! Burn it! Quemalo in Spanish."

In December 2019, the Mexican federal government consolidated what had been Sonoran and federal cases into exclusively federal prosecutions, with several suspects being arrested on 1 December 2019 with regard to the crimes and director of public safety in Janos, Chihuahua Fidel Alejandro Villegas Villegass arrest by the Mexican Attorney General’s Office on December 24 for Villegass allegedly providing protection for criminal activities by such as La Linea as for colluding in the massacre. A cousin of the victims, Julian LeBaron, told the New York Times, "Its common knowledge down here that the police work with the criminals. They have a monopoly on security, and they get paid a wage for protection, and later we find out that they participate in the murder of women and children."



                                     

6. Reactions and subsequent memorials

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!

November 5, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump offered Mexico military support to assist with defeating the drug cartels. The offer was declined by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, but said that he would speak with Trump over security cooperation between the two nations.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement expressing its "love, prayers, and sympathies" but also noting its understanding that the victims were not members of the church.

A member of the extended family, Julian LeBaron, whose brother Benjamin was killed by cartel gunmen in 2009, claims that the attack was targeted. He states that there can be no mistaken identity as the surviving children claimed that one of the female victims had attempted to identify herself to stop the attack. A family member has claimed that the cartels in Mexico have increased their levels of barbarity, and are on the same level if not worse than ISIL as ISIL has an ideology and the cartels are driven by greed and "pure evil". She continued to claim that Mexico "refused to overcome their pride" and accept help from a neighboring country or international coalition.

On January 12, 2020, Mexicos president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and Sonora Governor, Claudia Pavlovich Arellano, visited LaMora. Julian LeBaron said LaMora community members would be among those participating in a march sponsored by the advocacy group Defensa por la Vida y la Paz or Defense for Life & Peace slated for January 23–25 from Cuernavaca, Morelos, to Mexicos National Palace in Mexico City, with the intention, according to one of its organizers, the poet Javier Sicilia, of their reception by President Lopez Obrador.