(ADDS MOTIVES GUNMEN, MORE DETAILS)
By BosNewsLife Americas Service
DALLAS/MEXICO CITY (BosNewslife)– Relatives and colleagues were mourning Thursday, January 27, the death of an evangelical American missionary who was fatally shot in Mexico.
Police said Nancy Davis, 59, and her husband were traveling on a Mexican highway near the city of San Fernando, Mexico, when they were confronted by gunmen in a black pickup, said the Pharr Police Department in the nearby American state of Texas.
In published remarks Thursday, January 27, her husband Sam Davis told authorities in Texas that he raced their truck back into the United States after his wife was apparently shot in the head Wednesday, January 26.
Nancy Davis died in a Texas hospital, Texas police and other authorities said.
The attack happened in an area that is reportedly controlled by a drug cartel. Police said Thursday, January 27, that the couple may have been targeted because they were driving an expensive truck. Her husband described a frantic scene in which he sped toward the border desperately driving against traffic over a bridge that connects Mexico to the United States, according to a police statement.
The Associated Press (AP) news agency quoted the police chief in the border city of Pharr, Ruben Villescas, as saying pickups such as the 2008 Chevrolet belonging to Nancy and Sam Davis are coveted by criminal organizations in Mexico, and damage to the truck suggests that another vehicle tried to run them off the road.
Sam reportedly told investigators he and his wife were traveling about 70 miles (113 kilometers) south of the Mexican border city of Reynosa when gunmen in a pickup tried to stop them. When the Davises accelerated, the gunmen fired, wounding Nancy Davis in the head, the statement said.
Police said Davis told officers he continued to drive at top speed in hopes of outrunning the gunmen until he reached the Pharr International Bridge and sought help.
The scene echoed one described four months ago by an American tourist, who said her husband was gunned down by Mexican pirates on a border lake as the couple tried to flee on Jet Skis, AP reported. “I don’t know them, but my heart breaks for them,” said Tiffany Hartley, the widow of David Hartley, who authorities say was killed on Falcon Lake in September.
Mexico’s Interior Ministry said in a statement that it had joined the police investigation “for the purpose of clarifying the facts and act accordingly to punish the person or persons responsible.”
The U.S. based Cable News Network (CNN) quoted Merton Rundell, a professor in the missions department at Indiana’s Union Bible College & Academy and a family friend, as saying that the couple had lived in Mexico since the 1970s and worked with the Gospel Proclaimers mission in Mexico.
Maryanne Wheeler, another friend who worked with the Davises in the 1990s, said Nancy Davis’ death was a great loss. “They breathed Mexico,” Wheeler reportedly said. “That’s their love. For 40 years she has gone around Mexico, trying to be there as a nurse, a friend, as a spiritual adviser and has loved them. They lost the best,” she added.
“They had a petite lady who had the tenacity of a bulldog and was there for you.” Wheeler told CNN that the couple had been shot at before and knew the dangers of the border area.
It comes amid concerns about detentions, kidnappings and killings of other evangelical Christians in some areas of Mexico, where a drugs war and rebel violence has killed thousands in recent years. Funeral arrangements for the killed missionary were not immediately known Thursday, January 27.