Young missionary couple from US among 3 killed by gunmen in Haiti’s capital, police say

 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A U.S. missionary couple was shot and killed by criminal gang members in Haiti’s capital after they were abducted while leaving a youth group activity held at a local church, according to a police official and a religious group.

A third person also was killed during the attack Thursday evening in the community of Lizon in northern Port-au-Prince, Lionel Lazarre, head of a Haitian police union, told The Associated Press on Friday.

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 name of the third person killed wasn’t immediately available.

“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.”

The U.S. State Department said Friday it was aware of the killings. “We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss. We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance. Out of respect for the family during this difficult time, we have no further comment,” the agency said.

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.

The mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It runs a school in Lizon for more than 240 students that it opened in September 2008, according to its website.

A Facebook posting on the Missions for Haiti page late Thursday stated that Davy and Natalie, along with children, were leaving a church when “they were ambushed by a gang of 3 trucks full of guys.”

The posting said Davy Lloyd was taken to a house, where he was tied up and beaten. The post later said that Davy, Natalie and a third person, listed only as Jude, were at the house when shooting broke out. It said that gang members “shot all the windows out of the house and continue to shoot. Their lives are in danger.”

Three hours later, another posting from Missions in Haiti 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.”

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.

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 for 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.”

“Although the entire nation is steeped in poverty, the children suffer the worst. Thousands are malnourished, uneducated, and headed for hopeless lives apart from Christ,” the website said.

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.

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

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