© 2024 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You Count on Us, We Count on You: Donate to WUSF to support free, accessible journalism for yourself and the community.

A young couple from the U.S. were among 3 missionaries killed in Haiti violence

Davy and Natalie Lloyd were among three missionaries killed in Haiti after being ambushed at the Port-au-Prince, officials with the mission organization said Friday, May 24, 2024. The third victim was Jude Montis, who was the country's director of Missions In Haiti Inc.
Brad Searcy Photography
/
via AP
Davy and Natalie Lloyd were among three missionaries killed in Haiti after being ambushed at the Port-au-Prince, officials with the mission organization said Friday, May 24, 2024. The third victim was Jude Montis, who was the country's director of Missions In Haiti Inc.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — 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.

Copyright 2024 NPR

The Associated Press
[Copyright 2024 Jefferson Public Radio]