MEXICO CITY – A 59-year-old American missionary was shot in the head and killed in northern Mexico, possibly because one of the local drug cartels coveted her heavy-duty pickup truck, authorities said on Thursday.
Nancy Davis’ husband, Sam, drove the bullet-riddled blue 2008 Chevrolet against traffic to the border on Wednesday afternoon. He crossed the bridge into Pharr, Texas, where he told authorities that the couple had been ambushed about 60 miles south of the border on a Mexican highway by gunmen in a black pickup.
Davis was rushed to a hospital in McAllen, where she died. Friends told reporters she was a longtime missionary with vast experience in the increasingly dangerous area of northern Mexico, which has been racked by drug violence for several years. Local police said the truck the Davises drove is prized by Mexican cartels.
The shooting was reported to have taken place near the town of San Fernando, in Tamaulipas state. San Fernando was the site in August where 72 immigrants, mostly from Central America, were abducted and slain in the single largest massacre of Mexico’s raging drug war.
The Davises have spent decades as missionaries in Mexico and owned a home in the state of Nuevo Leon, friends told reporters. They founded a group called the Gospel Proclaimers Missionary Association in Weslaco, Texas.
American authorities said the investigation is largely in Mexican hands. “Mexico being a sovereign nation, we ask the involved entities over there to aggressively pursue cases such as this,” said Erik Vasys, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Mexican federal government condemned the shooting in a statement Wednesday evening, and the Tamaulipas state government did as well Thursday, while also pledging to cooperate with authorities investigating the killing.
Few crimes are ever resolved in Mexico, however, least of all in a violent state like Tamaulipas, where cartels hold massive sway.
The attack revived concerns about violence from Mexico’s drug wars spilling across the border. Crime has either dropped or held steady along most of the U.S. side of the border, which includes some of the safest parts of the country, according to FBI crime statistics. But there has been a steady drumbeat of trouble signs over recent months that the calm may not hold.