A suspect was arrested in the slaying of nine American citizens in Mexico, authorities said.
Three women and six children were gunned down in Sonora on Nov. 4.
In a statement posted on Facebook, the Agency for Criminal Investigation for the state of Sonora said Tuesday that the suspect was found in the town of Agua Prieta, near the border with Arizona, holding two hostages who were gagged and tied inside a vehicle.
The suspect, whose gender was not specified in the release, was also found in the possession of four assault rifles and ammunition, as well as various large vehicles including a bullet-proofed SUV.
President Donald Trump offered assistance to Mexico on Tuesday after the killings were reported, urging the country, with America’s help, “to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth.”
“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 wrote.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador spoke with Trump over the phone but said in a statement that he didn’t want intervention by a foreign government.
“The worst thing you can have is war,” he said.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who visited the site of the attack, said Mexico was sharing information about the case with the FBI.
The FBI also offered assistance to Mexico in the wake of the killings, officials told Fox News.
The Governor of Sonora, Claudia Pavlovich Arellano, issued a statement: “As a mother, I feel courage, repudiation and deep pain for what cowards did in the mountains between Sonora and Chihuahua. I don’t know what kind of monsters dare to hurt women and children. As Governor, I will do everything to make sure this does not go unpunished and those responsible pay.”
The victims were three mothers—30-year-old Rhonita Miller, also known as Rhonita Maria LeBaron; 43-year-old Dawna Ray Langford; and 31-year-old Christina Marie Langford—and some of their children: four of Miller’s children, two of Langford’s children, an 11-year-old, and a 3-year-old, Lafe Langford Jr. told the Salt Lake Tribune.
The victims were identified as all part of the LeBaron family, with five other children getting injured in the attack. They were rushed to a hospital in Phoenix.
Mexican Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said the nine, traveling in several SUVs, could have been victims of mistaken identity, given the high number of violent confrontations among warring drug gangs in the area.
But the LeBaron extended family has often been in conflict with drug traffickers in Chihuahua and other relatives of the victims said the killers surely knew who they were targeting.
“We’ve been here for more than 50 years. There’s no one who doesn’t know them. Whoever did this was aware. That’s the most terrifying,” Alex LeBaron, a relative, said in one of the villages inhabited by the extended family.
Lafe Langford Jr., a relative of some of the victims, posted a video showing a burned-out, bullet-ridden car. Photographers later captured photos of the shell.
He said that the mothers and “many of their precious innocent children have been slaughtered and gone to their rest.”
One of the older boys who was with the group managed to escape with six of his siblings and run home “after leaving his wounded, bleeding, and bullet-ridden brothers and sisters hiding behind trees from the ongoing shootout between the cartels,” Langford wrote in a Facebook post late Monday.
He added: “Teenagers and adults have been scrambling into the mountains to find our loved ones… risking their very own lives… while help is nowhere to be found… GOD HELP US IN JESUS NAME WE PRAY.”
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.