Family of Shanquella Robinson meets with White House officials, seeks Mexico extradition after her death
Robinson’s family and attorneys are hopeful and cautiously optimistic that White House officials will prioritize this case in the way they feel it deserves.
WASHINGTON – Attorneys and the family of Shanquella Robinson, a 25-year-old Charlotte, N.C., woman who died last year while on a trip with a friend and five other American travel mates in Mexico, met with White House officials Friday morning, demanding that U.S. leadership extradite a suspect to Mexico to be held responsible for Robinson’s death.
“We’re going straight to the top and we expect them to not disrespect or neglect Shanquella Robinson,” family attorney Ben Crump said at a press conference shortly after the meeting held just steps away from the White House.
Crump says he was encouraged following the meeting with Steve Benjamin, director of the Office of Public Engagement, as well as members of the Office of the White House Counsel, who have a direct line to President Biden and Vice President Harris. He expressed optimism that the case would be prioritized.
“We are grateful that they said ‘No, don’t give up on the process, we are going to look at what can be done to make sure that there is at least due process,’” Crump said.
Friday’s series of events marked the 200th day of Robinson’s death as frustrations mount over the lack of arrests despite video footage of Robinson getting physically assaulted by other people on the trip.
There were around two dozen people in attendance at the press conference; a bevy of cameras captured the speeches and civil rights activists holding large signs with Robinson’s face on them. The crowd frequently broke out into back-and-forth chants “no justice, no peace” and “say her name.”
Activist Tamika Mallory, co-founder of social justice organization Until Freedom who joined the White House meeting, was more reserved in her assessment of how things played out, saying the family had an opportunity to lay out the facts and holes in the case, but there was no immediate action taken.
“They did not say what they would do. They did not say it’s going to happen. They did not say they were going to make the State Department or anyone else do anything. They said they were going to look into the situation,” Mallory said.
What happened in Mexico?
More than six-and-a-half months ago on Oct. 28 of last year, Robinson was found dead less than 24 hours after traveling to the resort city of San José del Cabo, Mexico, with one friend and five travel mates to celebrate one of their birthdays.
Initially, the people on the trip told her mother that Robinson had died of alcohol poisoning, but the family later received an autopsy report from the Mexican Secretariat of Health and learned she had suffered a broken neck and a cracked spine. No mention of alcohol was included in the report. In a death certificate obtained by Queen City News in Charlotte, N.C., Robinson's death was attributed to a “severe spinal cord injury and atlas luxation,” meaning that her first vertebra was loosened or detached from the base of her skull.
Nearly a month later, the video footage of Robinson being attacked appeared on social media. Robinson’s mother recognized the other people in the video as the ones who traveled with her daughter, and she believes it was captured on the trip to Cabo.
Mexican authorities issued an arrest warrant in the case in November for the crime of femicide, a form of gender-based violence. They also sought to extradite an American suspect to the country to face charges. But since then, no one has been held accountable.
‘Someone should have been arrested’
Robinson’s mother, Sallamondra Robinson, believes she knows why Robinson is no longer alive and who did it, based on video footage of her daughter getting physically assaulted, along with various investigative documents her family has retrieved. But she says that U.S. authorities aren’t taking action.
“Someone should have been arrested after the video was released,” she said Friday, referring to footage shared online just weeks after Robinson’s death in which a blogger in North Carolina claims a woman is seen viciously attacking Robinson until her body goes limp. “We can’t sleep or eat. We’re barely holding down a job. We’re so heartbroken we don’t know which way to go.”
“I want justice, because I’ve seen her being brutally beaten,” Sallamondra Robinson told Yahoo News last month. “That’s enough evidence right there.”
Shenita Binns, a civil rights activist who traveled from Atlanta, Ga., to support Robinson’s family, told Yahoo News at Friday’s press conference that this case reveals that there are “two Americas” and if Robinson were white, justice would have already come.
“I feel like it is exactly what Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’” she said. “If they can do this to Shanquella, they can do it to my daughter, they can do it to my cousin, my nieces, my nephews.”
Crump echoed these sentiments, sharing the collective frustration over inaction by U.S. officials to date.
“When it was Natalee Holloway and Gabby Petito, [two white women] you had everyone trying to get to the bottom of it, but when it was Shanquella Robinson, no one was trying to get to the bottom of it,” he said.
Why has there been no arrest?
Experts say extradition remains on the table; however, the move is seen as rare and complex.
Lawyers from Ralls & Wille, an Arizona-based firm that regularly handles cross-border extraditions, told Insider that “very few” extraditions between the U.S. and Mexico occur involving American citizens — so few that their firm has only ever handled one such case.
Still, the prosecutors’ decision to not file charges shouldn’t affect a possible extradition, but political issues may complicate matters, according to Paul Arnell, an associate professor at Robert Gordon University.
"Political concerns can affect the decision to request an individual and the decision whether or not to accede to hand the person over,” Arnell told Newsweek. “The process is therefore somewhat dependent upon the overall relations between the countries. If, say, Mexico has refused to send persons to the U.S. then in turn the U.S. may act similarly.”
During Friday’s press conference, Robinson’s family and the family's attorneys vowed to not stop until someone is held accountable for her death, stopping short of setting any hard deadline for White House officials.
“If we let a couple months go by and don’t say Shanquella Robinson, then no one will,” Crump said. “We are going to keep saying her name.”
Meanwhile, Robinson’s six travel mates — known as the “Cabo 6” — remain free. But advocates warn them not to get too comfortable.
“These are some very dangerous individuals and if they did it to Shanquella, they can do it to someone else,” Mallory said. “When our government fails to move and do what it needs to do, then the community believes its only recourse is to step in and protect our sister, Shanquella.”
Cover thumbnail: Courtesy of the Robinson family, Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images