Monday’s lynching of two men who now appear to have been innocent of any wrongdoing followed mass panic among citizens of Ajalpan, Puebla, generated by rumors on social media.
Mayor Gustavo Lara said stories about children being kidnapped were circulating on social networks over the weekend. By Monday evening, an inflamed populace took matters into their own hands, seized two men who had been in police custody and lynched them both.
Brothers Rey David, 35, and Abraham Copado Molino, 25, of the Federal District, students at the Technological University of Tulancingo and employees of two research and marketing firms, died after they were beaten and then burned in the city’s main square.
Police had taken them into custody after residents called to report two men who were asking a lot of questions. Both were carrying identification indicating they were pollsters.
Mayor Lara said there wasn’t a single report or accusation of kidnapping on the weekend, but the social media rumors continued regardless.
The investigation into the murders has identified 25 people who participated in the lynching, and witnesses have confirmed their involvement.
After they were accused of a tardy response to a request for help from municipal authorities, state police said 30 officers were on the scene by 8:30, 40 minutes after they were called.
Fifteen officers attempted to stop the lynching, said state security chief Jesús Rodríguez Almeida, but were repelled by the crowd, armed with machetes, rocks and arms they had stolen from municipal police headquarters.
No one was arrested, he explained, because police were up against more than 1,500 people and it was impossible to detain anyone.