Forty-two were killed. Three were taken alive. Following Friday’s shootout between federal police and suspected drug gang members at a western Mexico ranch, many are questioning whether police ever intended to make arrests or simply executed the men they targeted.
"It was a true act of savagery. Our relatives are unrecognizable," one woman said while waiting for the release of her relative’s corpse from a state forensics center in Morelia, the state capital of Michoacán."This was not a clash, it was a massacre," Victor Hugo Reynoso, who was at the center to retrieve the body of his brother Luis Alberto, told the Agence France-Presse.
â€” Viva la causa! (@70torinoman) May 24, 2015
About 70 family members were waiting Sunday to recover the bodies of loved ones. One police officer was killed in a hourslong gunbattle that began when federal police pursued suspects to a 277-acre ranch in Ecuandureo, a town in Tanhuato municipality. Photos after the shootout showed rows of machine guns that were found at the property. “A pursuit began that led to the ranch. The rest of the criminals inside the ranch started to attack the federal forces with intensity,” National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said late Friday.
The ranch is near the border with Jalisco state where the Jalisco Nueva Generación (New Generation) has been growing fast. The group has been fighting the Knights Templar, a similar criminal organization based in Michoacán. Most of the families that arrived to collect the bodies were from Jalisco.
New Generation members were accused May 1 of firing a rocket-propelled grenades took down a helicopter, killing six members of Mexico’s elite Special Forces. The incident took place amid nearly 40 coordinated blockades of major streets in Jalisco and neighboring Colima and Nayarit states, including the popular tourist resort city of Puerto Vallarta. It’s likely Friday’s police operations are linked to these incidents and a larger crackdown on organized crime in the region.
On June 30, 2014, the military killed 22 in a shootout near Tlatlaya, a town in central Mexico. The government said the men were criminals and soldiers fired in self-defense. But later it was found by forensic specialists the victims had been shot at point blank with their own guns. Earlier this year 16 Mexicans citizens were killed in a shootout with federal police in the Michoacán city of Apatzingán. Officials said most of the men died from friendly fire, but witnesses interviewed by the news magazine Processo and other media groups said the men were armed with sticks and police deliberately killed the suspects.
Twitter was buzz with speculation police planted weapons near the bodies of some of the suspects. In one example, two images of the same crime scene suggest an ammo cartridge belt was planted.
Mexico’s national security agency dismisses the insinuations, claiming instead the police forces were highly trained and had superior equipment, which is why the battle was so one-sided. Twenty-eight police officers and army soldiers have been killed by Jalisco New Generation members since March.