A 13-year-old boy who lived in Stillwater and attended Westwood Elementary through 2018 was killed Saturday night in what Mexican authorities say appears to have been an ambush by members of a drug cartel.
Oscar Castillo Lopez, 13, was traveling with his 10-year-old brother Neftali, mother Jaunita Castillo Lopez, 41, of Oklahoma City and her uncle Jose Silva Mendoza, of Oklahoma City, as they returned from a holiday trip to visit family in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, a city about 427 miles south of the U.S. border.
More family members were following them in a second SUV and the two vehicles were caravanning on a highway that runs parallel with the border and connects Reynosa to Nuevo Laredo.
Multiple media outlets have reported that this highway through the state of Tamaulipas is a dangerous stretch of road because rival drug gangs are fighting for control of it. The attack on the family has been attributed to the Northeast Cartel due to initials written on the window of the abandoned car, but others are said to also be active in the area.
The family was near Neuva Ciudad Guerrero, just across the border from Falcon Heights, Texas, when they were attacked.
Mendoza told Fox 25 in Oklahoma City that he was driving the vehicle carrying his niece and her sons when a vehicle started chasing them.
At least one vehicle collided into their vehicles in an attempt to stop them.
Gunmen blocked the road ahead of them and started shooting, Mendoza said.
“I was praying. Praying, praying, praying,” he said. “I didn’t want to die right then … Bullets were everywhere.”
Oscar Lopez was shot multiple times and died at the scene, according to a report by El Tejano. His mother, brother and uncle were transported to a hospital in Nuevo Leon in stable condition. The family members in the other car were not hurt.
The Daily Mail reported that investigating officers and military personnel who responded to the scene found three cars with “crash impacts.” One of them was abandoned and had Tamaulipas plates while the other two had Oklahoma tags. The attackers are believed to have fled in another van.
Cecil Lawrence told Fox 25 he became the family’s neighbor when they moved to Oklahoma City almost two years ago. He describes them as good neighbors and said the kids were often outside, especially Oscar, who liked to play basketball with the other kids in the neighborhood.
The U.S. State Department has vowed to assist, saying “We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss, and we are providing them all appropriate consular assistance. We are closely monitoring local authorities’ investigation into this brutal attack.”