Gangsters in military-style uniforms drove residents from their homes in a small mountain community near Mazatlán, Sinaloa, during an armed attack on Wednesday morning.
A a 77-year-old father and his two sons were killed in the attack as they fled to the hills near Guamúchil, a community outside the village of La Noria, for refuge.
Two other men were injured in the attack and were taken to a hospital in Mazatlán for treatment.
The attack came after a number of false reports of conflicts in the area between rival groups in the preceding days.
According to the police report, around 20 men armed with automatic rifles and dressed as soldiers and state police entered the town in several trucks and began to drive people out of their homes.
“We were relaxed here when these people arrived and began shooting. I thought they were soldiers and I was surprised they were attacking us. Later we discovered that they were criminals. My house is riddled with bullet holes and I’m afraid of what might happen to us,” said one resident.
Authorities in Mazatlán created a task force comprised of state police and army soldiers to provide support to the terrified residents of the town.
The state undersecretary of Public Security, Carlos Alberto Hernández, reported that there have been a number of fake emergency calls in the area that have obstructed security operations.
He urged citizens to refrain from making false reports of violence via emergency numbers or elsewhere. He said that false reports only disrupt police operations, since they are forced to dispatch security forces to deal with the calls.
The security operation in Guamúchil and neighboring communities turned up no trace of the attackers or the attacks. The bodies of the three victims had been removed from where they had died and placed in their family home.
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to clarify the location of the community of Guamúchil, not to be confused with the city of the same name.