A Dahlonega native was shot and killed while traveling to visit family in Mexico last week.
Jonathon William Torres Cazares, 18, was a freshman pursuing an associate of arts degree at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.
“It is with sadness that we report the death of one of our students,” the university said in a statement to students Thursday.
“Counseling services will be available for students through Student Health Services. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.”
Torres was born in Dahlonega in 1991 and died in Tamaulipas on Sept. 30.
“We are in touch with the family and are offering all consular services available,” the U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros said in a statement Friday, signed by spokesman Brian Quigley.
Torres was one of two people killed after the bus he was riding in was hijacked, an unnamed U.S. official told the Brownsville Herald in Texas. The hijackers may have been members of a Mexican drug cartel.
Torres’ immediate family live in Mexico where he was visiting, but some relatives and friends still reside in Gainesville and Dahlonega, said the university’s spokeswoman Letty Fernandez. Those contacted by The Times did not return phone calls Thursday night.
“The tears in my eyes will not go away. You will always be in my heart and love ... rest in peace ... love your tía Janice Lopez,” Lopez, a Gainesville resident who lived in Dahlonega and attended Lumpkin County High School, posted as her Facebook status on Tuesday.
She updated her status several times and added photos of Torres, explaining to others that she talked to family members about what happened.
“He had life ahead of him, only 18 years old,” she wrote to a friend. “Always in my heart ... why why!!!! I do not understand why him.”
Several friends posted messages to Torres on his Facebook account, and his girlfriend now manages his page. She changed her profile picture to a black rose.
Torres was not on a school trip to Mexico, Fernandez said.
Out of concern for students, UTB-TSC faculty and staff had months ago halted the usual trips to Rancho Del Cielo, its field station and Matamoros, and had suspended travel to Mexico for research, meetings or conventions, said Juliet V. Garcia, president of the university.
“We had stopped all university-related trips to Mexico several months ago as a result of what we expected to be a very dangerous environment for a while,” Garcia said.
Although Rio Grande Valley residents have been raised to think of the border as a blur between two countries, she said, “Right now, I think that we should rethink that habit.”