Childhood Lake City SC friends kidnapped by drug cartel in Mexico hire civil rights lawyers

The two South Carolinians who survived a kidnapping in Mexico that killed two of their long-time friends have hired lawyers who handle civil rights cases across the country.

Eric Williams and Latavia “Tay” Washington McGee hired Harry Daniels of Atlanta and Jason Keith of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Daniels has represented myriad families of people who have been shot by police, people beaten while in custody, people alleging excessive use of force in communities as diverse as Austin, Texas, and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Last year, he won a $3 million settlement for the family of Andrew Brown Jr. against Pasquotank County in North Carolina. Brown was killed in 2021 while deputies were serving warrants related to drug allegations.

Keith specializes in state and federal criminal law, is the senior partner at Keith & Associates and the founder of NexGenLaw.

He told WFMY television station on Monday that Williams had been transferred to a hospital closer to his home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, from a hospital in Brownsville, Texas.

Williams had eight surgeries for gunshot wounds to his legs in Brownsville, where he was taken after he and McGee were rescued in Matamoros, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande, on March 8.

They were found in a wooden shack after they were captured at gunpoint March 3 by members of the Gulf cartel. Mexican authorities have said they were moved from place to place.

Their friends Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown were killed.

The four friends knew each other from childhood in Lake City, South Carolina. They were traveling together so McGee could have cosmetic surgery.

McGee was not injured physically.

Daniels and Keith released a statement on their behalf thanking people for their support.

“Over the past few weeks, Eric and Latavia have been through a nightmare the likes of which most of us can hardly believe,” the lawyers said in the statement. “Now as they continue to recover from their physical and psychological injuries, we wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for the unbelievable outpouring of concern and support.”

They pledged to hold those responsible accountable.

The Gulf cartel turned over to authorities five of their members believed to be responsible for the kidnappings and deaths.

The Associated Press obtained a letter through a Tamaulipas state law enforcement official purportedly from the Scorpions faction of the Gulf cartel that said, “We have decided to turn over those who were directly involved and responsible in the events, who at all times acted under their own decision-making and lack of discipline.”

The letter also said the members had disobeyed the cartel’s rules, including “respecting the life and well-being of the innocent.”

The letter included a photograph of five men face down on the pavement and bound.

No firm details have been released on why the foursome was targeted. One report says they were caught in the crossfire of rival drug cartels. Another that they were mistaken for Haitian drug smugglers.

A family member said McGee had returned home to Lake City.

Funeral services for Woodard, a cousin of McGee who she considered a brother, will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Good News Deliverance Temple Church in Lake City.