The FBI is asking for help finding leads on a Rio Grande Valley Marine kidnapped at gunpoint in Mexico, the agency said Monday.
Armando Torres III, 25, crossed over the Progreso International Bridge on May 14 to visit his father on a ranch near Los Indios, according to an agency news release. There, investigators believe armed intruders took Torres, his father Armando Torres II and uncle Salvador Torres shortly after they arrived.
The younger Torres’ sister Cristina Torres, 24, who lives in Virginia, said she got a call from her cousin minutes after the gunmen raced away.
“She saw a white truck with people in it and they just went in the house and got my brother and my dad and my uncle and just put them in the truck and took off,” Cristina Torres said. “They took a lot of their belongings in the house and they took the cars, as well.”
No one has seen or heard from the three men since that time.
Christina Torres said the family believes the kidnapping is tied to a land dispute, saying drug traffickers had been trying to get the property because of its proximity to the border and they didn’t want to give it up.
The incident hit especially hard for the family of a young veteran who had just gotten out of the U.S. Marine Corps after surviving deployments to Africa and Iraq.
“You never expect anything like this to happen,” Cristina Torres said. “He never went to Mexico, because when he was active in the Marines he wasn’t allowed to go. He hadn’t been in a long time and I don’t know what set him off to go visit my dad. … We just want to see them again.”
The Torres kids grew up in San Benito, where Armando Torres III graduated from high school in 2005 and promptly enlisted, his sister said. He was living in Hargill when the kidnapping occurred and has two children, boys ages 4 and 3.
His father and uncle are Mexican citizens whose disappearance is being investigated by officials there, FBI spokesman Erik Vasys said.
Friends and fellow Marines started a “Get Our Brother Back” Facebook group last month dedicated to spreading the word about the kidnapping and asking for help investigating it.
Melissa Estrada, who identified herself on the site as the mother of the children, begged others to reach out to lawmakers and sign petitions in posts May 27 and 29. She added that her baby boy “was saying he missed his father with tears and heartache I could not fix.”
“I wake up everyday thinking what will I tell my children when they grow up and don’t have a dad,” she wrote. “Armando served this country 7 years and I feel like his country should be able to respond, the way he always did.”
Elizabeth Findell covers PSJA, the Mid-Valley and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at email@example.com, (956) 683-4428 or on Twitter, @efindell.
GOT A TIP?
Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact the FBI-Brownsville Resident Agency Office at (956) 546-6922.