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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)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The third day of the Republican National Convention kicks off Wednesday with Republicans — led by the newly nominated Donald Trump and JD Vance — shifting to issues of national security and foreign policy.

Republicans are expected to focus on Democratic President Joe Biden's handling of the ongoing crises in Europe and the Middle East. Former Trump administration officials are expected to take the stage to outline what foreign policy would look like in a second Trump term.

That will likely include speeches from Richard Grenell, Trump's former acting director of national intelligence, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

And Vance is expected to accept his party's nomination for vice president.

Here’s what to watch for on the third day of the RNC:

Despite his celebrity after publishing the memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” the 39-year-old Ohio senator is unknown to many Americans — and even to many top Republicans in Milwaukee. He'll get the chance to address a national audience Wednesday.

Expect a speech that introduces his family — his wife, Usha, and their three children — and his endorsement of Trump's policies.

Vance beat out North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to be Trump's running mate. He has developed a strong rapport with the former president over the years, speaking on the phone regularly.

Trump has also complimented Vance’s beard, saying he “looks like a young Abraham Lincoln."

Former Trump White House official Peter Navarro was released from prison in Florida on Wednesday and is expected to speak hours later at the Republican National Convention.

Navarro, who was a Trump trade adviser, was released from custody after completing his four-month sentence for refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Navarro will head straight to Milwaukee to speak at the third night of the RNC. He is set to speak in the 6 p.m. hour Central time, according to a person familiar with the schedule who spoke on the condition of anonymity before the schedule’s official release.

Many of the speeches Wednesday will take aim at the Biden administration's handling of global issues, including the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, according to Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee, with the theme of “Make America Strong Once Again.”

“Under Joe Biden, the weakest commander-in-chief in our country’s history, America has become a global laughingstock,” the committee put out in an advance release.

Republicans see foreign policy as one of their strongest campaign issues, arguing that America's standing on the world stage was stronger under Trump despite the party's growing isolationist shift.

“I can tell you, countries around the world, leaders, are absolutely uncomfortable with the unpredictability of Donald Trump," Grenell, Trump’s former ambassador to Germany, said during a reporters' roundtable Monday. “And when I say uncomfortable, that means they don’t know exactly what he’s going to do next. And that’s a positive for us.”

It is an argument he will likely make again Wednesday night.

While the focus of Wednesday's session is expected to be beyond America's borders, Republicans are expected to also highlight how Biden's supposed “weakness” on immigration is also endangering our reputation abroad. Many speakers have already documented claims that a growing number of foreign terrorists have been able to illegally get into the U.S. from Mexico. Republicans have pointed to the arrests last month on U.S. soil of eight people from Tajikistan with suspected ties to the Islamic State group.

Convention organizers are not expected to announce who will speak on the event’s second day until later Wednesday morning.

Associated Press writers Alanna Durkin Richer and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

Follow the AP's coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.

A supporter holds his hat during the national anthem at the Republican National Convention, Tuesday, July 16, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A supporter holds his hat during the national anthem at the Republican National Convention, Tuesday, July 16, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Georgia delegate Kathleen Thornman takes a picture with her phone during the Republican National Convention Tuesday, July 16, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Georgia delegate Kathleen Thornman takes a picture with her phone during the Republican National Convention Tuesday, July 16, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Delegates dance during the Republican National Convention, Tuesday, July 16, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Delegates dance during the Republican National Convention, Tuesday, July 16, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Former US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell is seen during a walkthrough for the Republican National Convention Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Former US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell is seen during a walkthrough for the Republican National Convention Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Texas delegates cheer during the Republican National Convention, Tuesday, July 16, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Texas delegates cheer during the Republican National Convention, Tuesday, July 16, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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