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79-year-old American killed in Mexico while delivering aid to the needy

Photo by Miguel Urieta on Unsplash

A 79-year-old American man who transported clothes, food and toys into Mexico to donate to the poor was beaten to death during a delivery trip in Tijuana, family members and authorities said.

Rudy Lazo’s killing during an apparent robbery in mid-April happened a couple of months after the US state department warned Americans to avoid Mexico, citing elevated kidnapping and homicide risks in areas including Baja California, the state Tijuana is in.

As his family said on NBC Los Angeles and Telemundo, Lazo moved to the US from El Salvador in the 1980s. He started a family, worked as a truck driver and settled in San Bernardino, California, but never forgot the financial struggles faced by people in other parts of the world.

Lazo frequently drove trucks packed with clothes, food, toys and other basic donations to Tijuana, about 125 miles (200km) from San Bernardino, then gave them to families in need.

“He was always a very generous person – helped anyone out,” Lazo’s son, Juan Carlos, told NBC Los Angeles.

Lazo’s family realized something was amiss when he didn’t return home from a donation run last month. Mexican authorities soon notified the family that he had been beaten to death and seemingly robbed of his truck as well as other belongings, none of which have been found.

Juan Carlos Lazo traveled to Mexico to identify his father’s body.

“What I didn’t tell him in life, I told him there with my heart: ‘Forgive me, and that in the end I didn’t let you down,’” the grieving son said, according to Telemundo.

Juan Carlo Lazo also said: “He didn’t deserve this. Actually, no human being deserves this.”

Authorities have not announced any arrests.

Lazo’s children told reporters that helping families in Tijuana meant so much to their father that he had plans to try to build a community center there.

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“He probably thought he wasn’t going to have problems because he was a senior citizen,” his daughter, Claudia Hernandez, told NBC.

The US state department advisory warning travelers to avoid Mexico came after a Los Angeles-area public defense attorney, Elliot Blair, died in suspicious circumstances while vacationing in Baja California.

An attorney for the family of Blair, 33, has said his skull was fractured and it appeared he had road rash on his skin. The injuries caused Blair’s family to wonder if he had been beaten and dragged despite Mexican authorities’ claiming he may have fallen from a hotel balcony, hours after the couple reportedly paid $160 to local police officers to let them go after they were pulled over for running a stop sign.

In March, two Americans accompanying a friend to a cosmetic abdominal surgery in Mexico died in a kidnapping near the border with Texas.

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