Here is an excerpt from Jared Taylor's article in The Monitor:
"A police officer watched the blue Chevrolet pickup truck speed against traffic toward the checkpoint at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge shortly after noon Wednesday. Inside was Sam Davis and his wife, Nancy, who was still alive after suffering a gunshot to her head about 70 miles south of the Rio Grande, police said. Police and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers called an ambulance, which rushed the 59-year-old missionary to McAllen Medical Center. She died at 1:54 p.m. Wednesday. The rural Monte Alto couple worked as missionaries in Mexico for more than three decades... The couple was returning from a mission near San Fernando, about 70 miles south of Reynosa, police said.On the outskirts of the city of about 30,000 residents, the missionaries encountered a drug cartel checkpoint and refused to stop, authorities said. Several men in a black pickup truck tailed the couple past the impromptu checkpoint and opened fire. Sources said at least five gunshots struck the back of the missionaries’ pickup truck, leaving it 'riddled with bullets.' The missionaries may have been fortunate to escape the region and avoid kidnapping." Link to Full Article
Analysis: This is one of the more tragic stories I've heard related to Mexico in a while, and that's saying something, considering everything that's going on right now. These folks had been working in Mexico for 30 years, just to have this horrible nightmare happen to them. The incident highlights a few drug war issues.
First is the DTO "unofficial" checkpoint. I get a LOT of emails from people planning to travel to Mexico, and asking me if certain parts of the country are safe. I try to answer as best I can, but I'm not familiar with every town and every road and highway. Even if I were, the locations where DTOs set up these checkpoints change pretty often. I don't know how familiar the Davises were with the narco situation in Tamaulipas, but it was obviously a bad - and sadly, fatal - decision to blow through the checkpoint. This is why having situational awareness of your destination in Mexico isn't enough; you have to find out what's happening on the route you plan to use to get there. I can't stress enough that if you plan to travel to Mexico - particularly to a non-resort or rural area within 100 miles of a narco hot spot, you should contact the closest US Consulate in Mexico to ask them what the security situation is. I can try to help you and offer advice, but only to an extent.
Second, I'm more than a little concerned that the gunmen just started indiscriminately spraying the Davises' truck with bullets without knowing who was inside. But you know what? I have a feeling that even if they knew there were two American missionaries in their fifties sitting in that truck, they wouldn't have cared. Because they blew through the checkpoint, I'm sure the gunmen assumed it was members of a rival cartel or someone else who deserved to get shot for not stopping. Most Mexicans know better than to blow through a checkpoint, official or not, so the Davises' behavior likely came off as more than a little suspicious.
So what does this imply for Americans doing God's work - or any other work or pleasurable activity, for that matter - in Mexico? Well, don't automatically assume that you're out of harm's way because (a) you're American, and (b) you're doing something kind and charitable for the people of Mexico. DTOs don't give a rat's behind about who you are or what you're doing in their country. If you get in their way and don't follow their rules, you're a viable target, case closed.
I tell anyone who plans to do any sort of driving in Mexico to ALWAYS stop at checkpoints, and always have some cash on hand to pay the inevitable bribe. Often, that's not enough. You have to read up (plenty of others' experiences on the 'net...do a Google search) on how to specifically offer the bribe to get going on your way and avoid getting arrested if it's a police checkpoint...and eventually having to pay a bigger bribe to avoid going to jail. DTOs will normally not mess with an American after collecting said bribe. I'm a big fan of the author's work (Hi Jared!), but I have to disagree with his statement that the Davises' were lucky to escape being kidnapped. Yes, we're seeing more Mexican politicians, businessmen, and migrants being kidnapped for ransom - especially by Los Zetas. However, we have yet to see any innocent Americans taken by the DTOs, probably because of the political/diplomatic firestorm that would ensue. Can you imagine the response if Los Zetas posted some sort of proof of life on YouTube for two American missionaries in their late fifties? But maybe I'm being naïve to assume our government would aggressively step in; they might take the same non-negotiation stance with organized crime that they do with terrorists.
Regardless, this is a tragic ending to a horrific story that all Americans with interests in Mexico would be wise to read about. I will remind readers again that there are still plenty of places in Mexico that are safe to visit for vacations and business trips. However, road trips in Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Chihuahua, Durango, Michoacán, and a few other places are ill-advised. Remember, the State Department is your friend when it comes to reading up before you go...use them.
*UPDATE* I just finished reading this report from CNN, and it looks like the Davises didn't blow a DTO checkpoint after all. It seems that while they were driving, narcos in three trucks tried to box them in so they could get the Davises to pull over and then steal their truck. One of the three trucks wasn't successful in getting in front of the Davises' truck, so someone driving parallel to them fired a couple of shots at them; one of which caught Nancy in the back of the head, and at least one more that lodged itself in the truck.
When I read earlier reports of the truck being sprayed by dozens of bullets, it didn't make sense that narcos would shoot up a truck they wanted to steal. This account - straight from Nancy's husband, I believe - makes more sense and is infinitely more plausible. My analysis still stands; questionable checkpoints are still out there, and carjackings like this one are occurring with more frequency.