Mexican Street Scuffle Spirals into State Political Scandal
CUERNAVACA, Mexico (AP) _ A late-night village scuffle escalated within hours into a riot that killed five people, forced the state’s attorney general and police chief to step down and prompted a police strike.
Morelos state officials tried to determine Friday what set off Thursday’s predawn clash in Jonacatepec, 30 miles southeast of Mexico City, that killed two police officers and three civilians.
After a day of rioting, Gov. Antonio Riva Palacio late Thursday suspended Attorney General Tomas Flores Allende, who had been held hostage for hours by angry townfolk, and the state judicial police chief, Jose Isbael Rivera Rueda.
He disbanded an elite unit of the state police and surrendered six state judicial police involved in the clash into the hands of local vigilantes.
The six sat in Jonacatepec jail Friday, watched by vigilantes and by a few police officers.
Many state police were on strike Friday over the decision to hand over their colleagues, said reporter Miguel Angel Reyes of El Sol de Cuernavaca.
Newspapers published various versions of how the riot began - ranging from a taxi accident to a squabble between two drunks.
In an initial report, the government spokesman’s office said family members fired at police believing a relative was being kidnapped.
But all reports agreed on these events:
A few police had a shootout with two or three townspeople around midnight Wednesday. The shooting drew an angry crowd of armed civilians, some lured by the tolling of church bells at 2 a.m..
The crowd sacked the judicial police office and smashed and burned police vehicles.
The elite Scorpio group arrived to rescue their besieged colleagues, beating some civilians.
When Flores Allende arrived, townspeople seized and beat him and stuck him in jail, demanding that state officials surrender the police officers involved in the shooting.
Riva Palacio, whose own car was thumped by protesters, spent nine hours negotiating Flores Allende’s release in return for the six officers.
The governor warned townspeople ″not to take justice into their own hands without permitting the authorities to judge the accused by legal means,″ a state government statement said.