On January 25, an American photographer narrowly escaped death when he was ambushed by cartel members and led the henchmen on a high-speed chase to the International Border Zone, just south of Nogales, Arizona.
Matthew Besinger, a Los Angeles-based photographer was working on a photograph book about the Sonoran desert when he was ambushed by four young men. His vehicle suffered significant damage during his daring escape which ended at the U.S./Mexico border near Nogales.
Nogales Department of Homeland Security spokesman, Juan Osorio confirmed an incident took place regarding Besinger, but would not comment on the details.
The Tucson Sector DHS Public Affairs officer, Brian Levin also confirmed Besinger came through the Nogales port, went through secondary, had his car searched and listened to his story. However, since the incident took place in Mexico Levin says they have no way of proving what may or may not have happened.
In related news, American missionary, Nancy Davis was not as lucky as Besinger. She was murdered as her husband fled the scene of heavily-armed drug cartel gangsters. Davis was shot in the head, taken to a hospital near Reynosa and was pronounced dead 90-minutes later.
"The gunmen were attempting to stop them and the victims accelerated in efforts of getting away from them," a police statement read. "At a certain point the gunmen discharged a weapon at the victim's vehicle and a bullet struck the victim Nancy Shuman Davis in the head."
According to a CNN report, Davis' husband, immediately drove his truck "at high rate of speed" to the Pharr International Bridge near the Rio Grande. Pharr Police said, "They had been in touch with Mexican authorities, who said they were investigating the shooting. The Texas Department of Public Safety, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are also assisting police.”
The following is an account of the horrifying cartel ambush as told by Matt Besinger;
“Last night I was ambushed in my car by four men at gunpoint in Nogales, Sonora (Mexico). I managed to elude them and make my way back to the International Zone before I was robbed or murdered. This occurred within blocks of the Arizona border.
I'm a fine art photographer from Los Angeles working on a book about the Sonoran Desert. I lived in Tucson for 14 years and studied Poetry at University of Arizona. The photographs are being shot at night and I've visited many of Arizona border towns.
I was driving up the hill on the east side of the border (in Mexico). There's a street that climbs the hill named Buenos Aires. The hilltop offers a view of the wall and the landscape of Southern Arizona. After passing the lone hot dog stand, an approaching white sedan veered toward my car. There were four guys in the car and a fifth trailing on foot. They put a hand-held police light (blue/red) on their dash and screamed at me to get out of the car. Their behavior was totally erratic, especially since the rest of the town was dead.
Luckily, I had seen Nogales Police on Adolfo López Mateos and I remembered they wore green jackets, patches, badges, etc. These guys did not match. I angled my car around theirs and sped up the hill. Knowing that I would just rise deeper into the Buenos Aries neighborhood, I turned around. The street is super-tight and it requires a three-point U-turn. By the time I was going back down the hill, they were within 100-feet of me.
This time they aimed their car straight for mine. We both stopped short of a head-on collision. There were just the four guys at this point and they all jumped out of the car. Some had handguns on belts and a few had homemade bullet-proof vests. There wasn't one signifier or uniform, no camouflage, they were all super-young, and some wore T-Shirts and street clothes. They looked like high-schoolers dressed for Paramilitary Day.
When the last guy made his way from the sedan- he aimed a machine gun at my windshield- I dropped my torso under all of the windows and pressed on the gas as hard as I could. I managed to avoid all four guys and squeeze between their sedan and the block wall on the street's edge. My car launched down the side of Buenos Aires, the undercarriage hitting everything. I knew (I had) to get on Adolfo Ruiz Cortines heading south in order to eventually get back to the International Exit.
Lucky again, Buenos Aires is so tight that I had a decent lead on the sedan- they lost a good 15 seconds regrouping, turning around. After I made a few more U-turns I was headed north on Plutarco Elías Calles (the International Exit road), about a half-mile from the border. The sedan sped by on the other side of the street but they still had a couple of U-turns before they'd catch me. When I got close to the border I was doing almost 70mph. Then a van started to trail me with police lights. It looked like the Nogales Police, but I wasn't about to stop and find out.
I slowed-up near the International Exit traffic and drove straight through all of the speed bumps/plastic barricades to the booth of a Homeland Security Officer. I asked if he was American- he said "yes." I threw my hands in the air, told him I had almost been murdered, was handcuffed and brought to their Detention Room. There was some light questioning, my car was searched- none of it bothered me. I was happy to be alive.
Homeland Security said a drug cartel runs the Buenos Aires neighborhood. The cartel is so violent that the Nogales Police no longer monitors or patrols those streets. They recognized my description of the events and said that it was definitely the cartel. They also claimed that if I had stepped out of my car, I would have been robbed or murdered.
The US Department of State raises plenty of warnings about the border areas and virtually describes exactly what happened to me here. But the US Embassy only warns of "unnecessary travel to Michoacán and Tamaulipas, to parts of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango, and Coahuila." These ambushes probably happen more than they're ever reported. No report of my incident was made. Homeland Security did not allow the Nogales Police to gain access to me- and nothing will be done about what happened. There have been horrific murders of Americans in Sonora and I think the local news should press its viewers to stop visiting Nogales altogether- I was very lucky.”
According to the U.S. Department of State, a travel advisory was removed in September of 2010 and only warns Americans traveling south of the border to exercise caution.
A month later, in October, David Hartley was murdered on Falcon Lake, which straddles the U.S./Mexico border. He and his wife were trying to escape heavily-armed drug cartel members on Jet Skis-David was struck by a bullet and his body was never recovered.
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