An Edmonton man says after having regularly vacationed in Mexico for nearly 50 years, he and his wife are now debating whether to ever go back.
David Baggs told Global News he and his wife were carjacked and held captive by men armed with automatic weapons. But his dismay was intensified by what he called a lack of help-or even a response-from local authorities in that country.
“It happened so fast and the shock is so great that I think all you can imagine is, ‘This is not really happening to me,'” the 77-year-old told Global News on Wednesday, “but it was.”
Baggs said the carjacking unfolded on Jan. 15, one month after he and his wife arrived for a four-month stay at a condo in Mazatlan, located in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. According to Baggs, he and his wife left Mazatlan at about 9 a.m. with another couple who were visiting them from Arizona.
“[We] decided to go on the Durango highway (Highway 40D) to see the Baluarte Bridge, which is about midway between Mazatlan and Durango,” he said.
Baggs said he suspected something nefarious was unfolding about five or six kilometres into the trip.
“We were boxed in by three vehicles. One in front cut us off, one on the left side of my truck and one behind us,” he said. “They forced us off the highway [and] came to a stop.
“Four men jumped out of each of the other cars with automatic weapons and made us get out of the truck.”
Baggs said the men then forced everyone travelling with him into the backseat of his Ford F-150 and drove them a few kilometres further up the highway before turning off on a dirt road into the woods.
“[They] took us back in there — probably 10 kilometres — where they stopped in the middle of the road, got us out of the truck, robbed us of all of our money and jewelry, watches and cellphones.”
At that point, Baggs said the incident became even more unsettling.
“They drove off in the truck and two of them stayed behind with automatic weapons and took us up this little dry creek bed in the woods, where we met up with a Mexican family — a man, his wife and two sons — whose truck they had hijacked about 30 minutes before ours,” he said. “At that point we then were taken farther and farther and farther back into the woods.
“‘Don’t do anything stupid, be calm,'” Baggs said he was told by one of the Mexican captives who spoke English.
“‘I don’t think they’re going to hurt us and I think we’re going to come out of this OK.'”
Baggs said he came to understand from the Mexican victims that someone they knew had been following them and alerted police of the abduction. He said somehow their captors seemed to become aware police were on their trail though he can’t say for certain how.
“Our captives had cellphones with them. They were talking back to their other bandit brothers and they knew the cops were on the way so they took us farther and farther back into the woods.”
All captives were then told to walk out to a road while the armed men fled.
“When we got out to the road, there were four or five police vehicles there — state police, municipal police — and there were a couple of medic people there.”
Baggs said police took their statements and has provided Global News with a copy of the police report he filed. In total, he said he and his party were held captive for about six hours.
“That was our day. Pretty exciting,” he said. “Fortunately, we weren’t harmed at all, except mentally.
“It’s been quite a traumatic mental issue.”
Baggs said he is going public with his story two months later because of what he says is a lack of action on the case. According to him, no arrests have been made and he’s heard more stories of similar carjackings near where his captors carried out their crimes.
He also says he has, to date, been unsuccessful in trying to redeem a $400 deposit he paid Mexican customs officials in order to be able to drive his truck — with Alberta licence plates — into the country, something he suggested is standard protocol for foreigners bringing vehicles into the country.
Baggs said it’s not just the lost money that’s an inconvenience, he would be unable to bring a new vehicle into the country now as authorities could say he already has a vehicle in Mexico and accuse him of illegally selling the vehicle(s).
When asked by Global News why he couldn’t simply show customs officials the police report to show them what happened, he said police told him they have tried to get customs officials to act without success.
“The bottom line is, after two months talking to various organizations here in Mazatlan, no one is doing a damn thing,” he said. “Nobody in the Mexican government, at least at the state level, cared enough about our situation to offer any assistance.”
Baggs said the whole situation has him and his wife on edge and he now wants to warn other Canadians of the problems plaguing the country of 120 million people.
“There is violence down here and there is police corruption down here, and one of the things that tourists should be aware of is that if something happens to them down here, there’s a good chance that they don’t get any help from the local authorities,” he said.
He added that while he doesn’t know how his captors apparently became aware of police being on their trail that January morning, they appeared to be well-informed about what was happening was concerning. He said the Mexican family that was abducted told him they believe someone must have been tipping the carjackers off.
The federal government currently has multiple travel advisories issued for Canadians travelling to Mexico, including for the state of Sinaloa — one of the epicentres of Mexico’s murderous drug war involving powerful drug cartels. While Mazatlan is not part of the advisory, Canadians are urged to avoid non-essential travel to all other parts of Sinaloa “due to high levels of violence, linked mainly to organized crime.”
Watch below: Videos from Global News’ coverage of the ongoing violence in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.
Baggs said he and his wife are planning to fly home soon but hope to have his truck issues settled before then.
“This really has changed our attitude about Mexico and about the situation here,” he said. “I don’t know that we’ll come back. I think we will, but it’s an issue that we’re going to have to come to grips with.
“I don’t feel as comfortable as I used to.”
In a statement to Global News, Global Affairs Canada said it is aware a Canadian citizen was kidnapped in Mexico in January.
“The Consular Agency of Canada in Mazatlan provided consular assistance,” spokesperson Philip Hannan said.
Hannan said the department could not provide further information due to provisions in the Privacy Act.
Baggs’ story comes just days after an Ontario man reported he was left for dead after being the victim of a violent robbery in Playa del Carmen, another tourist hot spot located on the opposite end of the country from Mazatlan.
Watch below: In March 2018, Jason Enwere told Global News that a man driving a taxi and an accomplice choked and beat him, stole his phone and cash and left him for dead while he was in Mexico.
Earlier this month, Canada issued a travel warning for Playa del Carmen, citing a potential security threat following a ferry explosion there.
The warning came just weeks after at least 25 people were injured when an explosion ripped through a ferry in the resort town.
-With files from Caley Ramsay and Estefania Duran
Watch below: WARNING: Video contains disturbing images. Viewer discretion is advised. Security cameras the capture moment a ferry explodes at a Mexico pier in February 2018.
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