MEXICO CITY, Aug. 19 (UPI) — Mexico’s National Commission of Human Rights released a report accusing federal police of executing at least 22 people and of evidence tampering related to the 2015 Rancho del Sol shootout.
The human rights commission determined 43 people died, including one police officer, in the conflict between armed civilians and federal police. The incident occurred in Mexico’s western state of Michoacan on May 22, 2015. The government said those who died were suspected drug cartel members who were hiding in the ranch.
The commission said it found evidence that 22 civilians were executed, four died from excessive force and two were tortured. The commission could not establish the details of the deaths of the 15 others.
“The investigation confirmed facts that show grave human rights violations attributable to public servants of the federal police,” commission President Luis Raul Gonzalez Perez said during a press conference Thursday.
One police officer died in the shootout, which — when compared to the death toll on the civilian side — generated accusations against the federal police of arbitrary killings. The commission said 40 civilians were killed with gunfire, one died in a fire at a warehouse and one was run over with a vehicle.
A helicopter killed at least five people, the report says. The commission accuses federal police of manipulating evidence to fit their account of the incident.
Police said the Rancho del Sol shootout began when police took fire from a civilian truck, which led them to the ranch. An officer was shot and police called for backup, police said. Fifty-four officers arrived.
The commission said police did not provide evidence supporting that account, adding that witness testimony indicates at least 41 federal police officers sneaked onto the ranch early in the morning. The commission also said police moved bodies and evidence to fit their description of the events.
Renato Sales, Mexico’s national security commissioner, rejected the human rights abuses accusations on Thursday.
“The use of weapons was necessary and proportional against the real and imminent and unlawful aggression,” Sales said during a press conference. “That is to say, in our minds they acted in legitimate defense.”