Mormon families fleeing Mexico violence arrive in Arizona

Clay Curtis
November 10, 2019

Family members say she exited her auto with her arms outstretched to signal she was not a gang member - but not before wedging her infant daughter's auto seat on the floor of the vehicle.

They sang and they wept as they laid to rest a mother and her four children.

As bullets began to pummel the first auto, a white Chevrolet Suburban, Christina Marie Langford Johnson stepped out waving her arms to show that they were not gang members, according to a family statement based on reports from the surviving children.

On Monday morning, a group of three mothers and their 14 children set off in three cars from the La Mora ranch, to go to another Mormon settlement, Colonia LeBaron, in neighbouring Chihuahua state.

Three other children, including Faith, have been reunited with relatives at La Mora.

A third vehicle, 18 km behind, was shot up and burst into flames, killing Rhonita Miller and her four children.

She was found alive in a bullet-ridden auto on a dirt road in Mexico's northern state of Sonora following the brutal gang attack on Monday.

The Juarez Cartel wanted the Sinaloa Cartel off its turf, General Homero Mendoza said.

The attack happened on an isolated dirt road in a region known for turf wars between drug cartels fighting over lucrative trafficking routes to the United States.

Officials say the assailants may have mistaken the group's vehicles for those of a rival gang.

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To many, the bloodshed seemed to demonstrate once more that the government has lost control over vast areas of Mexico to drug traffickers.

Indeed, Mexico's latest tragedy in the long fight against cartel violence is viewed by some as a sign its "hugs, not bullets" security strategy - focused on combating social problems - has done little to wrest large chunks of the country from the grip of criminal organizations.

Miller said that with the eyes of the world upon these communities, he hopes their deaths may not be in vain and can spotlight what he deems a nationwide concern with thousands of Mexicans mourning missing and dead loved ones amid record-setting homicide levels. More than 200 spent shell casings were left behind.

"I witnessed the army, scared to go in", Miller said, standing over the graves as soft rain fell on the several hundred mourners gathered in Colonia LeBaron.

A man was arrested in a nearby town in a truck carrying a.50 calibre Barrett rifle and other military-grade weaponry, but the government later said he was not linked to the murders.

The massacre has caused shock on both sides of the border and prompted US President Donald Trump to call for a "war" on Mexican cartels.

"We're very proud of him", Langford told the newspaper. One 13-year-old boy helped the younger ones hide, then walked 22 kilometers (14 miles) home to get help.

The other six victims are expected to be buried later. Five of his siblings had been injured in the gunfire - including nearly 9-month-old Brixon who was shot in the chest, Miller wrote.

"We pray, Father, that good will come out of this bad incident, that the way may be opened up for this country to find justice for those that don't have a voice", Miller said. Another sister, Kylie, was shot in the foot, while sibling Ryder was uninjured.

Five of the victims - 30-year-old Rhonita Maria Miller and her children: eight-month-old twins Titus and Tiana, 12-year-old Howard Jr and 10-year-old Krystal - died after their vehicle was targeted by gunmen. "Only ashes and a few bones remain".

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