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Young missionary couple from US among 3 killed by gunmen in Haiti's capital, family says

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Young missionary couple from US among 3 killed by gunmen in Haiti's capital, family says
News

News

Young missionary couple from US among 3 killed by gunmen in Haiti's capital, family says

2024-05-25 07:22 Last Updated At:07:30

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A U.S. missionary couple and a Haitian man who worked with them were shot and killed by gang members in Haiti’s capital after they were attacked while leaving a youth group activity held at a local church, a family member said Friday.

The attack happened Thursday evening in the community of Lizon in northern Port-au-Prince, Lionel Lazarre, head of a Haitian police union, told The Associated Press.

The slayings occurred as the capital crumbles under the relentless assault of violent gangs that control 80% of Port-au-Prince while authorities await the arrival of a police force from Kenya as part of a U.N.-backed deployment aimed at quelling gang violence in the troubled Caribbean country.

Two of the victims were a young married couple, Davy and Natalie Lloyd, according to a Facebook posting from Natalie Lloyd’s father, Missouri state Rep. Ben Baker. The third victim was Jude Montis, who was the country's director of Missions In Haiti Inc.

“My heart is broken in a thousand pieces,” Baker wrote on Facebook on Thursday. “I’ve never felt this kind of pain. Most of you know my daughter and son-in-law Davy and Natalie Lloyd are full time missionaries in Haiti. They were attacked by gangs this evening and were both killed. They went to Heaven together.”

Hannah Cornett, Davy Lloyd's sister, told the AP that her brother was 23 years old and Natalie Lloyd was 21. They were going to celebrate their two-year anniversary in June and his birthday in early July.

Cornett said her parents are full-time missionaries in Haiti, and that she and her two brothers grew up there.

“Davy spoke Creole before he spoke English. It was home,” she said in a phone interview. “Haiti was all we knew.”

Cornett, 22, said her parents run an orphanage, school and church in Haiti, and that she and her brothers grew up with the orphans: “It was just one big happy family there.”

She said her older brother was outgoing, had built a garden and raised a lot of animals. While he went back to the U.S. for Bible college and then got married, he returned to Haiti with Natalie Lloyd to do more humanitarian work.

“They just had a lot of love for Haiti, and they just wanted to help the people there,” Cornett said. “That's their calling.”

Cornett noted that Montis worked with her parents for 20 years and left behind two children, ages 2 and 6.

She said the night of the attack, three vehicles carrying gang members stopped the Lloyds and Montis as they crossed the street, hitting her brother in the head with the barrel of a gun. They forced him upstairs, stole their belongings and left him tied up. As people were helping untie Davy Lloyd, another group of armed gunmen showed up.

“Nobody knows what happened,” she said.

An unidentified person got shot and the gunmen opened fire as the Lloyds and Montis fled to the house where her parents live, Cornett said.

“They tried to take cover in there, but the gang shot up the house,” she said, adding that they were killed and their bodies set on fire.

Cornett said her mother flew back from Haiti about a month ago, and that her father and younger brother flew out Wednesday because things had been so calm in the neighborhood.

“Nobody expected this to happen,” she said between tears.

On Friday afternoon, Baker posted on Facebook that the bodies of Davy and Natalie Lloyd were safely transported to the U.S. Embassy.

The couple worked for Missions In Haiti Inc. The Claremore, Oklahoma, organization was founded by David and Alicia Lloyd, Davy Lloyd’s parents. Natalie Lloyd’s Facebook page said the couple married on June 18, 2022, and she began working with the missionary organization in August 2022. She frequently posted photos of Haitian children on her page.

A Facebook posting on the Missions In Haiti page late Thursday read: “Around midnight: Davy and Natalie and Jude were shot and killed by the gang about 9 o’clock this evening. We all are devastated.”

Alicia Lloyd, mother of Davy Lloyd, told the Oklahoma-based Claremore Daily Progress newspaper that her son “was one of these people who could do anything.”

“I hope something good can come out of this. We don’t see it now, but we don’t want (their lives) to be in vain,” she was quoted as saying.

U.S. Department of State spokesman Matthew Miller said the ambassador in Haiti was in touch with the families "who we know are experiencing unimaginable grief.”

“Unfortunately, this serves as a reminder that the security situation in Haiti cannot wait – too many innocent lives are being lost,” he said in a statement as he noted the U.S. government's commitment for a swift deployment of the Kenyan-led mission.

It wasn’t immediately clear which gang or gangs were responsible for the fatal shootings.

However, a gang leader called Chyen Mechan, which means “mean dog” in Haitian Creole, controls the area where the shooting occurred. His real name is Claudy Célestin, and he is a dismissed civil servant from Haiti’s Ministry of the Interior.

The leader of another gang known as General Jeff also controls territory near the neighborhood where the couple was killed. Both gangs are part of a coalition known as Viv Ansanm, which means “Live Together.”

The coalition is responsible for launching large-scale attacks on key government infrastructure starting Feb. 29. Gunmen have attacked police stations, opened fire on the main international airport that remained closed for nearly three months before opening earlier this week and stormed Haiti’s two biggest prisons, releasing more than 4,000 inmates.

Gangs also are blamed for killing or injuring more than 2,500 people across Haiti from January to March, a 50% increase compared with the same period last year, according to the United Nations. In addition, more than 360,000 people have been forced to flee their homes by gangs who control 80% of Port-au-Prince.

Kidnappings also are rampant, with targets including U.S. missionaries.

In October 2021, gang members kidnapped 17 missionaries, the majority U.S. citizens. Many in the group, which included five children, were held captive for more than two months before escaping.

Then in July 2023, gangs kidnapped a U.S. nurse and her daughter from the campus of a Christian-run school near Port-au-Prince. They were released nearly two weeks later.

The U.S. Department of State has long had a “do not travel” advisory for Haiti and urges any U.S. citizens in the country to depart as soon as possible.

On the Missions In Haiti website, the founders wrote that the organization was founded in 2000. It said it aimed to help with “the country's biggest need — its children.”

A May 2023 newsletter posted on the mission website said Natalie “has been helping with the kids at the House of Compassion and assisting in our ACE school. Davy has been working on a lot of badly needed projects around our compound,” including building a laundry room and repairing bathrooms.

Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. AP writer Jim Salter in O’Fallon, Missouri contributed to this report.

This photo provided by Brad Searcy Photography shows Davy and Natalie Lloyd. Three U.S. missionaries were killed in Haiti after being ambushed at the Port-au-Prince, officials with the mission organization said Friday, May 24, 2024. Two of the victims were a young married couple, Davy and Natalie Lloyd, according to a Facebook posting from Natalie Lloyd's father, Missouri state Rep. Ben Baker. The name of the third person killed wasn't immediately available. (Brad Searcy Photography via AP)

This photo provided by Brad Searcy Photography shows Davy and Natalie Lloyd. Three U.S. missionaries were killed in Haiti after being ambushed at the Port-au-Prince, officials with the mission organization said Friday, May 24, 2024. Two of the victims were a young married couple, Davy and Natalie Lloyd, according to a Facebook posting from Natalie Lloyd's father, Missouri state Rep. Ben Baker. The name of the third person killed wasn't immediately available. (Brad Searcy Photography via AP)

A woman covers the side of the street with water to keep dirt from kicking up, as police patrol near the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, May 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

A woman covers the side of the street with water to keep dirt from kicking up, as police patrol near the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, May 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Police check motorcyclists near the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, May 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Police check motorcyclists near the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, May 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

A bus passes by a police officer on patrol near the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, May 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

A bus passes by a police officer on patrol near the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, May 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived in Haiti on Tuesday, nearly two years after the troubled Caribbean country urgently requested help to quell a surge in gang violence.

A couple hundred police officers from Kenya landed in the capital of Port-au-Prince, whose main international airport reopened in late May after gang violence forced it to close for nearly three months.

It wasn’t immediately known what the Kenyans’ first assignment would be, but they will face violent gangs that control 80% of Haiti’s capital and have left more than 580,000 people homeless across the country as they pillage neighborhoods in their quest to control more territory. Gangs also have killed several thousand people in recent years.

The Kenyans’ arrival marks the fourth major foreign military intervention in Haiti. While some Haitians welcome them, others view the force with caution, given that the previous intervention — the U.N.’s 2004-2017 peacekeeping mission — was marred by allegations of sexual assault and the introduction of cholera, which killed nearly 10,000 people.

Romain Le Cour, senior expert at Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, urged the international community and government officials to share details, including the mission’s rules of engagement and concept of operation.

“What is going to happen vis-a-vis the gangs,” he said. “Is it a static mission? Is it a moving mission? All those details are still missing, and I think it’s about time that there’s actually transparency.”

Hours after the Kenyans landed, Prime Minister Garry Conille thanked the East African country for its solidarity, noting that gangs have vandalized homes and hospitals and set libraries on fire, making Haiti “unlivable.”

“The country is going through very difficult times,” he said at a news conference. “Enough is enough. ... We’re going to start working little by little to retake the country."

Conille said the Kenyans would be deployed in the next couple of days, but he did not provide details. He was accompanied by Monica Juma, Kenya's former minister of foreign affairs who now serves as national security advisor to President William Ruto. She said the Kenyans will “serve as agents of peace, of stability, of hope.”

“We stand united in our commitment to support Haiti's National Police to restore public order and security,” she said. “It is our hope that this will not become a permanent mission.”

The deployment comes nearly four months after gangs launched coordinated attacks, targeting key government infrastructure in Haiti’s capital and beyond. They seized control of more than two dozen police stations, fired on the main international airport and stormed Haiti’s two biggest prisons, releasing more than 4,000 inmates.

“We’ve been asking for security for the longest time,” said Orgline Bossicot, a 47-year-old mother of two who sells carrots and charcoal as a wholesale distributor.

Gang violence has stymied her sales, and she tries to stay out as late as possible before sundown to make up for the losses despite being afraid.

“You don’t know who’s waiting for you around the corner,” she said, adding that she is hopeful about the Kenyan police joining forces with local authorities.

Critics say the gang attacks that began Feb. 29 could have been prevented if the foreign force had been deployed sooner, but multiple setbacks — including a legal challenge filed in Kenya and political upheaval in Haiti — delayed its arrival.

The attacks prevented then-Prime Minister Ariel Heny, who at the time was in Kenya to push for the deployment, from returning to Haiti. He resigned in late April as the violence surged. Afterward, a nine-member transitional presidential council chose former U.N. official Conille as prime minister and appointed a new Cabinet in mid-June.

Still, the gang violence has persisted, and experts say it will continue unless the government also addresses socioeconomic factors that fuel the existence of gangs in a deeply impoverished country with a severely understaffed and under-resourced police department.

Le Cour said the reaction of the gangs to the mission is difficult to predict. “Some of them might fight. Some of them might want to negotiate and open dialogue with the Haitian government," he said.

In a recent video, Jimmy Chérizier, a former elite police officer who now leads a powerful gang federation known as G9 Family and Allies, addressed the new prime minister for the first time.

“Do not play into the hands of traditional politicians and businessmen, who used violence for political and economic ends," said Chérizier, best known as Barbecue. "The problem that exists today can only be resolved through dialogue.”

Conille has not commented on the video.

The U.N. Security Council authorized Kenya to lead the multinational police mission in October 2023, a year after Henry first requested immediate help.

President Joe Biden praised the arrival of the first contingent, saying that the mission overall “will bring much needed relief."

“The people of Haiti deserve to feel safe in their homes, build better lives for their families, and enjoy democratic freedoms,” he said. "While these goals may not be accomplished overnight, this mission provides the best chance of achieving them.”

Rights groups and others have questioned the use Kenyan police, pointing out the years of allegations against officers of abuses, including extrajudicial killings. On Tuesday, police again were accused of opening fire in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, where thousands of protesters stormed the parliament.

Kenyan police in Haiti will be joined by police from the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin, Chad and Jamaica for a total of 2,500 officers. They will be deployed in phases at a cost of some $600 million a year, according to the U.N. Security Council.

So far, the U.N.-administered fund for the mission has received only $18 million in contributions from Canada, France and the United States. The U.S. also has pledged a total of $300 million in support.

“While gang violence appears to have receded from its peak earlier this year, the country’s security situation remains dire,” the U.N. Security Council said in a June 21 statement.

More than 2,500 people were killed or injured in the first three months of this year, a more than 50% increase from the same period last year.

Many Haitians live in fear, including Jannette Oville, a 54-year-old mother of two university-age boys. She sells crops like plantains and green peppers, and gangs have robbed her several times as she travels aboard public buses with her goods. She tucks money in her armpit or underwear to try to keep it safe, she said.

“I need security. I need to work. I need the roads to open up so I can provide for my family,” she said. “Being a female entrepreneur in Haiti is never easy. There’s a lot of risk. But we take a risk to make sure our families are good.”

An estimated 1.6 million Haitians are on the brink of starvation, the highest number recorded since the devastating 2010 earthquake, according to the U.N.

Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Police from Kenya enter a bus after landing at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Marckinson Pierre)

Police from Kenya enter a bus after landing at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Marckinson Pierre)

Police from Kenya stand at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport after landing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Marckinson Pierre)

Police from Kenya stand at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport after landing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Marckinson Pierre)

Police from Kenya stand at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport after landing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Marckinson Pierre)

Police from Kenya stand at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport after landing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Marckinson Pierre)

Police from Kenya stand at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport after landing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Marckinson Pierre)

Police from Kenya stand at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport after landing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Marckinson Pierre)

Police from Kenya stand on the tarmac of the Toussaint Louverture International Airport after landing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Marckinson Pierre)

Police from Kenya stand on the tarmac of the Toussaint Louverture International Airport after landing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Marckinson Pierre)

The plane carrying police from Kenya taxis after landing at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

The plane carrying police from Kenya taxis after landing at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Journalists cover the arrival of a plane carrying police from Kenya at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Journalists cover the arrival of a plane carrying police from Kenya at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Police from Kenya deplane at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Police from Kenya deplane at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The first U.N.-backed contingent of foreign police arrived nearly two years after the Caribbean country requested help to quell a surge in gang violence. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

An armored police vehicle patrols in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

An armored police vehicle patrols in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

UN-backed contingent of foreign police arrives in Haiti as Kenya-led force prepares to face gangs

UN-backed contingent of foreign police arrives in Haiti as Kenya-led force prepares to face gangs

FILE - Kenya police patrol the streets of Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, March 12, 2024. Hundreds of Kenyan police officers are leaving for Haiti, where they will lead a multinational force against powerful gangs. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

FILE - Kenya police patrol the streets of Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, March 12, 2024. Hundreds of Kenyan police officers are leaving for Haiti, where they will lead a multinational force against powerful gangs. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

UN-backed contingent of foreign police arrives in Haiti as Kenya-led force prepares to face gangs

UN-backed contingent of foreign police arrives in Haiti as Kenya-led force prepares to face gangs

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