In April 2016, a Sun Thisweek article recounting Lakeville, Minnesota, resident Evan Tweed’s arrest at an unnamed resort in Mexico on 21 March 2016 proved unusually popular on Facebook:
While the piece was well-traveled on social media, it left readers with a more questions than answers. Sun Thisweek provided some of the circumstances of Tweed’s account (such as the March 2016 date of his “spring break nightmare”), but it left out other key details, such as the nature of the altercation (in which Tweed says he was not involved) that led to his arrest, and the name of the club or the location of the resort where the described events took place:
[Evan] Tweed, his wife Teresa and son Sam, a Lakeville North High School senior, were expecting fun and good memories when they traveled to Mexico with a group of about 75 other Lakeville families over spring break in March.
The Tweeds had gold-level accommodations and perks at an all-inclusive Mexican resort, which has been a popular spring break destination for many high school students and their families in and around Lakeville.
Among them was Tim Durst of Lakeville, who was standing near Tweed at a club on the resort March 21 when an altercation occurred.
“The next thing I know, Evan is in handcuffs,” Durst said.
Alternating between past and present tense, the article described Tweed’s subsequent journey to a jail in an unspecified area of Mexico:
Suddenly, Mexican police pull up, talk with management, chain Tweed to the truck, and leave with him in the back under armed guard for what would be a 30-minute drive to a Mexican jail.
“The whole ride, I’m thinking I can’t believe this is happening,” Tweed said. “Then my next thoughts were … I’m going to jail in a Mexican prison. I’m never going to get out of here.”
The article also recounted the harrowing conditions Tweed experienced inside the jail, as fellow travelers mounted an effort to spring him:
Tweed said he was locked in a dirt, blood and feces-covered cell alone.
A hole in the floor with a steel bowl covered in feces served as a toilet; there was no cot or furniture.
A puddle of moldy liquid was along a wall; ants and bugs roamed the floor.
A small barred window did nothing to appease the “overwhelming stench,” and he said he covered his nose with his shirt.
Back at the resort, [Tim] Durst [of Lakeville] said he and others were frantically trying to find out where Tweed was taken and how to get him out.
Durst said resort workers told them to wait until morning to get Tweed released, which they did, but later learned was bad advice.
“I come to find out if we would have followed the police department with Evan in a taxi we could have got him out right there for $50,” Durst said.
The Sun Thisweek article reported that Tweed encountered a crying woman in an adjacent cell who asked him whether he spoke English and then revealed that she was a fellow Minnesotan who had been taken from the same resort under questionable circumstances (and tacitly suggested that the arrests were a routine form of shakedown):
Hours after he was jailed, the woman who had been crying in the adjacent cell asked him if he spoke English.
Tweed said he was astounded to learn she was from Eagan, staying in the same resort on spring break with her 18-year-old daughter.
He said the woman told him she remembered having a few drinks, but then blacked out and woke up in the prison.
“She thought maybe someone drugged her or something and still didn’t know why she was there,” Tweed said. “She said her daughter must be absolutely freaking out not knowing where her mom was. She said she had no idea if her daughter knew what to do to find her.”
On 22 March 2016, Tweed’s traveling companions reportedly went to the location where he was being held and negotiated his release (along with that of the Eagan woman). Tweed said he was made to sign forms written in Spanish (which he did not understand) containing blank spaces that had not yet been filled in, and to waive his interest in speaking to a U.S. representative:
Durst played a large role in Tweed’s eventual release.
He called the Mexican police system “corrupt,” and said the next morning he learned how to navigate it from a helpful taxi driver who had worked in Minnesota and spoke English.
The driver took him to the jail, and directed him how much to pay to rescue Tweed.
“It’s almost like it was rehearsed for the security people to figure out how to get money out of the whole thing,” Durst said.
Tweed said before he was allowed to leave the jail, he was also forced to sign blank forms he didn’t understand that were written in Spanish.
After scrawling an illegible signature, the clerk also required him to write a line at the bottom that stated he did not need to speak to the U.S. Embassy.
When Durst arrived with cash, Tweed followed through on his promise to the Eagan woman, insisting to the guards she had to come with him.
At the end of the story, as related by Sun Thisweek, the unidentified female guest and Tweed (for reasons not explained) chose to return to the very resort from which they had been abducted, where the former found her “ordeal was over,” but the latter (also for reasons not explained) was denied re-entry until a fellow Lakeville resident intervened on his behalf:
While the woman’s ordeal was over, resort security refused Tweed entrance and were about to force him out when Mia McHugh Liguori, a Lakeville business owner and influential corporate client of the resort, stepped in.
Through her contacts and influence, security aborted plans to force him out of the resort.
While Tweed’s “spring break nightmare” appeared to be a popular cautionary tale for potential visitors to Mexico, the narrative lacked detail to a curious degree about where the events took place, the nature of the altercation that prompted his arrest, the reason(s) Tweed was initially not allowed back into the resort following his release, or why Tweed chose to return to the purportedly dangerous unnamed vacation spot after his harrowing ordeal without any assurance that he wouldn’t again be hauled off by Mexican police for no reason.
Tweed concluded his account to Sun Thisweek by vaguely suggesting that “travelers outside the U.S.” should “beware of situations that can happen without warning,” advice that didn’t provide foreign travelers with any meaningful or useful information (especially since Americans remaining inside the United States can also run afoul of “situations” that can “happen without warning”). Tweed also advised that “[e]ven if you’re in an all-inclusive resort, you’re never safe from anything,” another example of information too vague to translate into any meaningful caution for those traveling outside the U.S.
The scenario described in the piece certainly seemed intended as a warning to those considering vacations at Mexican resorts, but Tweed apparently wasn’t perturbed enough by his personal harrowing experience to cut his trip short: after leaving jail, he fought to return to the same resort even after being denied re-entry, going so far as to enlist a fellow American to successfully argue his way back in (despite his ordeal and the “never [being] safe from anything” aspect of his tale).
The Sun Thisweek article did not provide the name of, or any statement from, the fellow prisoner who had been locked up in the same jail as Tweed after involuntarily being taken from the same resort under comparably suspicious circumstances (her inclusion in the story seemed intended to suggest that some form of traveler exploitation was afoot); it did not explain why the location and name of the resort were left out of the piece; nor did it offer any side to the story other than Tweed’s or even indicate that the author had tried to obtain one. (A subsequent report from Minneapolis station WCCO was similarly light on detail, but it at least identified the resort in question as the Barceló Riviera Maya and noted that “they did not respond to our questions.”)
It’s certainly possible Tweed was subjected to a completely unjustified arrest by Mexican police (yet nonetheless opted to return to that resort after his ordeal); it’s also possible there was more to the briefly-mentioned altercation (and the overall story) than was stated in the Sun Thisweek piece. Indeed, WCCO’s report added the small bit of information that the altercation involved “a group of parents [who] went out for an after dinner drink at one of their resort’s bars,” whereupon “a scuffle broke out, [and] a woman claimed Tweed punched her in the face,” which suggests that there was a basis for an arrest, even if was a misplaced one. And one of the (unverified) comments posted in response to that article by a reader stated that:
My wife and I were there along with some friends and watched it happen. [Tweed] could have walked away 10x but wouldn’t leave it alone. He was smashed, I was embarrassed for him and felt bad for the staff. He gave them no choice but to call the police. He has no right to make himself the victim here.
We have attempted to contact Evan Tweed to obtain more details on this story but have not yet received a response. However, he did provide a statement to a Minnesota CBS affiliate, which provided more details (some of which seemed to contradict the original narrative, and also showed that — by his own account — he resisted arrest):
We walked into the club and made our way to the back to some tables across the dance floor from the bar. The place wasn’t very busy, maybe 25% full at the time. After we settled into a table in the back, me and Tim, one of the other Lakeville parents, went up to the bar to get some drinks. We noticed that Tim’s daughter and her friends were up at the bar as well.
As we crossed the empty dance floor and approached the bar, a young Spring Breaker guy cut in front of Tim just as he got to the bar and said something to the effect of “Out of my way old man!” Tim obviously took offence to this and probably overreacted. He grabbed the back of this kid’s shirt collar and yanked him back hard. Drinks went flying and people were slipping and falling down.
I was still standing there along with Tim, his daughter and her friends and all of a sudden I see this irate girl coming out of the pile towards me yelling and exclaiming that I had just punched her in the face!! What?! First of all, who would ever punch a girl in the face! Secondly, I wasn’t even near her! She was entirely out of my reach and there were no punches thrown by anyone, let alone to the face of a teenage girl! This little confrontation Tim had with a drunk wise guy kid was starting to escalating out of control now!
The next thing I know, two resort Security guys grabbed me, put one of my arms behind my back and pushes me towards the exit. What the hell is happening here! I was the only one out the whole group that got grabbed – and for nothing! I of course immediately resisted, claiming my innocence: “I never touched her!” “Why, what did I do?” “This is a complete bullshit!” “Let me go!” struggling with them all along.
15 April 2016, we received the following statement from Rafael Medina, the general manager of Barceló Maya Beach Resort:
At Barceló Maya Beach Resort, guest safety is a top priority and any concerns are taken very seriously. Our employees undergo extensive training and are instructed to follow a strict protocol should a security issue arise. We also adhere to strict privacy standards for all of our guests, and like all luxury hotel brands, generally we do not discuss guest incidents with the media. However, one guest’s false and slanderous statements to local media have put us in a very uncomfortable position, forcing us to defend both our team, and the entire region of Riviera Maya.
In late March, our staff responded to a disturbance, in which a female American guest reported that Mr. Tweed physically assaulted her. The mother of the female guest requested that local authorities be called. In compliance with our company policy and security protocol, we are required to alert officials should a guest ask for one. Mr. Tweed, intoxicated at the time, acted belligerently and aggressively with both our staff and the local authorities, who attempted to diffuse the situation.
We cannot speak on behalf of the local authorities as to what happened when Mr. Tweed left the premises but can confirm that our staff followed all standard protocols, including obtaining numerous written statements from witnesses and reviewing security video footage, which led us to determine Mr. Tweed would not be welcomed back to our resort.
This story was corroborated by a young woman who had contacted us to tell us she was the one punched by Tweed. Her account matched the one later provided to us by the Director General of the resort.