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Suspect arrested in Mexico seemingly not involved in Americans’ deaths

Chihuahua state police officers man a checkpoint in Janos, Chihuahua state, northern Mexico, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Drug cartel gunmen ambushed three SUVs along a dirt road, slaughtering six children and three women, all U.S. citizens living in northern Mexico, in a grisly attack that left one vehicle a burned-out, bullet-riddled hulk, authorities said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)

A criminal investigation agency in Mexico said a suspect they had taken into custody apparently was not connected to the ambush killings of nine Americans.

The suspect was taken into custody Tuesday, the day after a countryside gun attack that left three women and six children dead in Sonora. The gunmen fired more than 200 rounds in the attack. A burned-out vehicle filled with bullet holes was left on the road.

Mexican Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo said the gunmen may have mistaken the group’s large SUVs for those of rival gangs.

Authorities said the suspect had been found in Agua Prieta, just across the border from Douglas, Arizona.

The unidentified person had two hostages, bound and gagged inside a vehicle, and numerous assault weapons, the Agency for Criminal Investigation said in an online post.

Among the dead were Rhonita Miller, 30; Dawna Ray Langford, 43; and Christina Langford Johnson, 29, who officials said hid her 7-month-old daughter on the floorboards of the back seat. The baby survived.

Langford had gotten out of the SUV with her hands up.

Some of the children who managed to escape have been hospitalized in Tucson. One had been shot in the face; another in the back; another in the leg. Ages ranged from 14 to 8 months.

“(The family) just cannot believe what has happened to them,” KSL-TV reporter Dan Rascon of Salt Lake City told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Wednesday.

Rascon spoke with relatives of the victims in Tucson.

The victims lived in Sonora state, about 70 miles south of Douglas, Arizona, in the hamlet of La Mora, which was founded decades ago by an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Many La Mora residents call themselves Mormons but are not affiliated with the church.

“A lot of the family members have family in Utah,” he said. Some of the stateside relatives travel to La Mora occasionally, Rascon said.

“They said they usually feel pretty safe. They’re aware of the drug cartel, they’re aware of the dangers, but for the most part they say they’re left alone.”

The family is, “just trying to make sense of it all,” Rascon said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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