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Hundreds mourn gang killings of a Haitian mission director and a young American couple

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Hundreds of people packed into a sweltering church in Haiti’s capital on Tuesday to mourn Judes Montis, a mission director killed by gang members who also fatally shot an American couple that worked with him.

Wails filled the crowded church during the early morning service as tears streamed down the face of Montis’ wife. The service also honored the lives of Davy and Natalie Lloyd, a married couple in their early 20s who were with Montis when gunmen ambushed them on Thursday night as they left a youth group activity held at a local church.

AMERICAN MISSIONARIES KILLED BY HAITIAN GANG ‘GAVE EVERYTHING’ FOR THE PEOPLE THERE: FAMILY

Montis, 47, leaves behind a wife, two children, ages 2 and 6, and a brother who was present the night that the killings occurred.

“We’ll never forget you or the path you created for others!” cried out one mourner as the crowd dressed in black and white made its way from the church to the cemetery.

A funeral procession for mission director Judes Montis, killed by gangs alongside two of his U.S. missionary members, makes its way to the cemetery after his funeral ceremony in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, May 28, 2024. The service also honored the lives of Davy and Natalie Lloyd, a married couple in their early 20s who were with Montis when gunmen ambushed them on Thursday night, May 23, as they left a youth group activity held at a local church.  (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

The service was held just days after the three were killed in a gang-controlled area in a northern part of Port-au-Prince where Montis worked as the local director of the Oklahoma-based Missions in Haiti, a religious organization founded by David and Alicia Lloyd, Davy Lloyd’s parents.

“We are facing the most difficult time of our life,” Missions in Haiti said in a recent Facebook post. “Thank you for all your prayers and support.”

Montis’ brother, Esuaue Montis, a 43-year-old Spanish teacher with the mission, told The Associated Press that he was nearby during the shootings. He said that he saw the gunmen arrive and he used a truck to block the gate before he started running with several orphans and employees in tow.

The group got separated, and when Esuaue Montis jumped over one wall, he encountered a group of armed men. They pushed him to the ground and stepped on him as one gunman asked people in the area if they recognized him while another said, “He works at the orphanage. Kill him.”

In that moment, his phone rang. It was a friend whom he had called earlier in a frenzy to tell him about the situation.

“This call is going to save you or going to kill you,” he recalled one gunman telling him as he ordered Montis to answer the phone.

His friend lied and told the men that Esuaue Montis didn’t work at the orphanage.

“He gave me back the phone and left,” Montis said of the gunman.

He hasn’t returned to the organization’s school where he worked and is now looking to flee Haiti.

“How will I be able to continue working in the orphanage, not seeing Jude next to me?” Esuaue Montis said between tears. “My brother checked on me all the time. If I went out in the afternoon, he would call and say, ‘Brother, where are you?’”

Montis said the mission had never been threatened before, adding that gang members in the area had only asked for small handouts on occasion.

While Jude Montis was buried in Port-au-Prince, Missions in Haiti said that the U.S. Embassy is working on obtaining the documents needed for the bodies of the Lloyds to be flown to the U.S., adding that it has relocated its staff and others to a safer location.

A Facebook post from Cassidy Anderson, a spokesperson for the family, on Tuesday stated that “transport has been completely secured,” but that no information would be released because of security concerns.

Natalie Lloyd, 21, is the daughter of Missouri state Rep. Ben Baker. He wrote on Facebook that he spoke by phone Monday with former U.S. President Donald Trump, who called to express his condolences.

“He mentioned how sorry he was that this evil happened to our kids and how beautiful their devotion was to their calling and to the people of Haiti,” Baker wrote.

In a recent interview with the AP, Davy Lloyd’s sister, Hannah Cornett, recalled how they grew up in Haiti because their parents are full-time missionaries, and that her brother learned Creole before he spoke English.

She said her parents run an orphanage, school and church in Haiti, and that she and her brothers grew up with the orphans.

Cornett said that the night of the killings, three vehicles carrying gang members had stopped the Lloyds and Montis, hitting her 23-year-old brother with the barrel of a gun and tying him up at his home as they stole their belongings. As people helped untie Davy Lloyd, another group of gunmen appeared and an unidentified person got shot, she said.

The gunmen then opened fire as the Lloyds and Montis tried to take cover in the house where her parents live, she said, adding that their bodies were set on fire.

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Haiti’s National Police condemned the killings in a rare statement, and extended its condolences to the families of the victims, vowing to arrest those responsible.

However, it’s rare for Haitian gangs involved in high-profile kidnappings or killings to be arrested, since the police department is chronically under-resourced and understaffed. Gangs control at least 80% of Haiti’s capital, and violence continues unabated as the country awaits the U.N.-backed deployment of a Kenyan police force that once again has been delayed.

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