Southern Utah communities come together to offer aid to families affected by fatal attack in Mexico

ST. GEORGE — Local communities across Utah and Arizona are coming together to provide for the families of the victims of the recent fatal shooting in Sonora, Mexico.

Seventeen people with dual citizenship between the U.S. and Mexico were ambushed Nov. 4 while traveling to Chihuahua, Mexico. Nine of those traveling — three mothers and six children — were killed.

“This was just a surprise because they came on foot, they hide in the dark, in the night,” Tiffany Langford, whose aunts and cousins were killed in the attack, told St. George News in an interview the day after the ambush. “No one knew that they were there, no one expected them to be there.

The eight remaining children, injured and terrified, hid themselves in bushes while one child, a 13-year-old boy, walked 15 miles back to La Mora for help.

Following the ambushes, the families of the victims were told it must have been a case of mistaken identity, which Tiffany Langford argued could not have been the case.

“No, they knew that it was women and children,” she said. “Dawna begged them and said, ‘No, we have children in here.’”

A candlelight vigil hosted in remembrance of the victims of a deadly attack in Mexico, Colorado City, Ariz., Nov. 8, 2019 | Photo by Whitnie Barlow, St. George News

Survivors of the attack were given medical care in Arizona, where a number of the children have already been discharged from the hospital. Some of the children, however, including an 8-year-old boy who was shot in the jaw and needed extensive surgery, remain in recovery. The day of the final funeral, three of the eight children went in for surgery, which Lindsey Langford, whose siblings survived the attack, reported were successful.

The funerals, hosted between two hamlets in Mexico, La Mora and Colonia LeBaron, marked the last days a number of the group’s members would stay in the country after the ambush that forever changed their lives.

Stateside, some communities, including Colorado City, Arizona, held candlelight vigils in support of the families and as a celebration of life for those whose lives were lost.

Darlene Stubbs orchestrated the event because of the impact the tragedy had on the community since some relatives of the victims live in the Colorado City-Hildale area. People from Las Vegas, St. George, Hurricane and Salt Lake City also made their way down to Cottonwood Park to attend the event.

“It was an opportunity for families to connect and grieve together,” she said. “The next day was so hard; everybody was ready to get together and just connect.”

In the days following the attack, Stubbs said she was glued to her phone as she waited for updates and looked for ways to offer support to the families that had been affected.

Stubbs said the community wants to do everything they can to offer comfort and support to the families. As the families relocate, she doesn’t want them to have to worry about the holidays.

A candlelight vigil hosted in remembrance of the victims of a deadly attack in Mexico, Colorado City, Ariz., Nov. 8, 2019 | Photo by Whitnie Barlow, St. George News

Stubbs to announced her plan to help provide the families with Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas presents through the Cherish Families nonprofit during the vigil.

“Their (the families’) Thanksgivings were huge. They’re all about family, and they used to have massive Thanksgiving dinners and a lot of people would travel down there,” she said. “But now, a lot of people have moved out and moved to different parts of Utah.”

Following the final funeral, which celebrated the life of 31-year-old Christina Langford Johnson, an 18-vehicle caravan carrying about 100 people from the La Mora hamlet left Mexico for good, heading to Arizona.

More of the residents of La Mora, which originally housed about 300 people, are expected to leave in the coming days as members of the fundamentalist sect of Mormonism establish more permanent roots in the U.S.

“This is just unheard of,” Tiffany Langford said. “The mafia have come in vehicles and done their little raids on other towns, but it’s never been our town. It’s never been so close.”

As members were traveling to and from the funerals, Mexican soldiers and local law enforcement offered armed protection, while additional military presence was already established in nearby cities. Members of the group said they hoped the increased presence in the area would make their move safer.

Soldiers — known as Federales — from neighboring cities came to offer aid, but Tiffany Langford said they were apprehensive.

“They’re a little bit scared because they know what they’re up against,” she said. “They know how big the mafia is and how cruel they are.

Since the tragedy, the family has raised over $170,000 in private donations through a GoFundMe campaign that was set up to help with costs associated with funerals and medical bills.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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