Plagued by deadly attacks, members of Mormon community flee Mexico
Their ancestors fled from the US to Mexico to escape persecution. Now, members of a Mormon community wracked by violence say they’re forced to uproot and head back to the US.
“We’re not going to live at the mercy of these cartels,” said Lafe Langford, who lost nine relatives last week in a grisly attack in northern Mexico.
So on Saturday, a convoy of 18 vehicles full of family members left La Mora, a community of fundamentalist Mormons that is not part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“All of our hearts are hurting, not just with who we lost, but because what’s been a paradise for the Langfords for 50 years has suddenly become a place where most don’t feel safe,” family member Kendra Lee Miller said.
“Whether it will be (safe) or not, it’ll never be the same again.”
Those who left will seek refuge in the US, Langford said. He said they will stay with family members in Utah, Arizona, North Dakota, Louisiana and other states.
Of the roughly 45 homes in La Mora, less than a dozen remain occupied, Langford said.
He said many of those who have left claim they will never come back.
“If we don’t see a way we can live here, we’re done,” he said.
The boy who walked 6 hours to get help speaks out
The ambush that killed three mothers and six children also left several child survivors to grapple with a lifetime of trauma.
Devin Langford, 13, watched his mother, Dawna Ray Langford, and two brothers get killed.
“A bunch of bullets just started shooting rapidly at us,” Devin told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in an interview that aired Monday.
Devin said he thinks one of the bullets struck the engine of his mother’s car, disabling it as she was trying to flee.
“The car didn’t work, so she was just trying to start the car as much as she could,” Devin told GMA.
Dawna Ray Langford spent her final moments trying to protect her children and praying.
“Get down right now,” Devin recalled his mom saying. “She was trying to pray to the Lord.”
When the bullets finally stopped, Devin hid six of his siblings in bushes and covered them with branches to “keep them safe while he sought help,” Miller posted on Facebook.
He then walked 14 miles across the remote, mountainous terrain of northern Mexico to seek help.
During that hours-long trek, Devin told GMA, he was overcome with fear “that there was anybody else out there trying to shoot me or following me.”
A girl wounded by gunfire also tried to help
Devin wasn’t the only child trying to save other survivors.
As nightfall loomed, 9-year-old McKenzie Langford — who was shot in the wrist — grew worried about Devin.
“I gotta go find him,” McKenzie said, according to Lafe Langford.
“She had a bullet through her wrist, but nevertheless, she was probably in the best shape to walk at that point. And so away she went,” Langford told CNN.
“We found her by her little footprints. She took the wrong road. Six hours later, and we saw that her footprints had a shoe, and then a bare little foot because she had to take her shoes off and her feet were just swollen and covered in blisters when they found her at 9:30 at night.”
But McKenzie didn’t complain about her injuries.
“The first thing that came out of her mouth when she saw her uncles was, ‘We have to go back. We have to go back. My siblings, my brothers and sisters are dying. They’re bleeding, they’re shot. We have to go rescue them,'” Langford said. “And that’s all she cared about.”
CNN’s Shawn Nottingham, Flora Charner, Natalie Gallon, Gary Tuchman and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.