As many as 17 people were killed in a massacre in Michoacán on Sunday afternoon. The victims were lined up along the facade of a house and shot dead after armed men forced them out of a wake they were attending in the town of San José de Gracia.
Authorities haven’t disclosed the number of fatalities, but unofficial reports put the number of victims between 10 and 17.
A video shot from an elevated point some distance away shows a group of people lined up in the street before a rapid series of gunshots rings out. The area where the victims were standing is engulfed in smoke after the firing squad-style execution.
The perpetrators, who haven’t been identified, removed the bodies and took them to an unknown location. It appears to be the worst massacre in recent years in Michoacán, one of Mexico’s most violent states.
A gunfight was reported near the scene of Sunday’s massacre, but there were no reports of additional victims.
San José de Gracia is the municipal seat of Marcos Castellanos, located in the northwestern corner of Michoacán on the border with Jalisco. The area is controlled by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), the newspaper Reforma reported, adding that the victims are presumed to be members of Cárteles Unidos, which is engaged in a turf war with the CJNG.
The Michoacán Attorney General’s Office (FGE) said in a statement that it had opened an investigation into the crime. Spent bullet casings from firearms of four different gauges were found at the scene and a motorcycle and two cars in the same location were damaged by bullets, it said.
The FGE also said that the location where the massacre occurred had been “recently washed.”
“No victims were found. However, containers of cleaning products were found in a bag,” it said.
The army, National Guard and police responded to reports of the massacre but no arrests were reported. The Michoacán government called on San José de Gracia residents to report any information that could assist efforts to detain the perpetrators of the brutal multi-homicide.
Ejecutan a 17 personas quienes se encontraban en un velorio en San José de García , Michocán. ¡17 ejecutados! pic.twitter.com/xoDuCSr3ya
— Azucena Uresti (@azucenau) February 28, 2022
At his Monday morning news conference, President López Obrador said that authorities were continuing to investigate the crime and that more details would emerge later in the day.
“There is evidence that there was a confrontation. There are bullet casings, some [human] remains, I believe, but no bodies,” he said.
López Obrador said there was talk on social media that 17 people were murdered, but expressed some doubt that the number of victims was so high.
“I wish with all my soul that it is not as they are announcing. … More will certainly be known today,” he said.
Asked whether the video of the massacre may have been manipulated, López Obrador responded: “Well, who knows? … Hopefully, … it won’t be as is being disseminated.”
The president subsequently criticized the media for reporting the high death toll “as a fact” when all the information about the crime is not known.