MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador inaugurated a monument Thursday to the memory of nine U.S.-Mexican dual citizens ambushed and slain on Nov. 4, 2019 by suspected drug gang assassins.
The monument in the small town of La Mora is in the northern border region near New Mexico, near the site where the groups was ambushed along a rural road.
Sonora state Gov. Claudia Pavlovich said the monument “is a testament to the need that this never be forgotten, that this always be remembered, and that it never be repeated.”
The killings of three women and six children from the extended Langford, LeBarón and Miller families shocked Mexico.
Amber Ray, the sister of victim Dawna Ray Langford, said the monument was “a reminder that, even in a time of great tragedy, we can unite and defend ourselves against violence.”
Initial investigations suggest that a squad of gunmen from a drug gang that originated in the border city of Ciudad Juarez set up the ambush to kill members of a rival cartel. However, relatives of the victims say that at some point, the gunmen must have known who they were killing.
Mexican authorities say that 17 suspects have been arrested, and that 15 more arrest warrants for other suspects have been issued.
López Obrador said the killings showed the need to offer young people in Mexico education or job opportunities, so they would not be recruited to drug gangs. In the meantime, he said, “we are going to continue (with investigations) until the whole truth comes out, and justice is done.”
In fact, few of the average of about 100 homicides that occur every day in Mexico receive the attention, investigation or prosecution that the massacre of the dual-citizens has gotten.
But the president pledged that the era when officials would ally themselves with one drug gang to attack another had ended.
The extended community of mostly bilingual American-Mexicans have lived in northern Mexico for decades and consider themselves Mormons, though they are not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The monument reflected the community's roots and religious beliefs. A figure apparently depicting the Angel Moroni stands atop a swirling column, at the bottom of which are figures of the victims. Moroni is considered an important figure in the theology of the Latter Day Saint movement.
The community’s origins date to the official end of polygamy over a century ago by the LDS church, which prompted many families that continued the practice to establish colonies elsewhere. Many of those in northern Mexico have by now, over the generations, abandoned polygamy as well.