Mexican Cockfight Results in 20 Shot Dead

Gunmen opened fire on an alleged cockfighting pit in a town in southwestern Mexico, killing 20 people and leaving several others wounded in one of the bloodiest massacres the country has seen in recent years.

Officials in the Mexican state of Michoacán said the shooting happened Sunday night during a "clandestine palenque," or cockfight, in the town of Las Tinajas. While details on the massacre are still emerging, the area has previously seen violence driven by drug cartels and the country's president has said the shooting was gang related.

"It was a massacre of one group against another," Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said during a press conference Monday.

Five people, four men and one woman, were left injured during the shooting and one victim died on the way to the hospital, according to a statement issued Monday by the Michoacán attorney general. At the crime scene, investigators found more than 100 7.62 caliber shell casings collected at different points in the building and 15 vehicles were seized by authorities.

The Attorney General's Office said Sunday that the shooting occurred at approximately 10:30 p.m. local time. Personnel from the Crime Scene and Expert Services Unit were dispatched to the scene where they found 19 bodies, including sixteen men and three women.

Bullet Hole in House in Michoacan, Mexico
View of a bullet hole on the window of a house in El Aguaje, Aguililla municipality, Michoacán state, Mexico, on February 9, 2022. Michoacán has endured ongoing violence the Mexican president attributes to the cartels. ENRIQUE CASTRO/Getty Images

Several men armed with assault rifles forced their way into the building where they opened fire on what's believed to be a rival gang, reports La Voz de Michoacán. The paper also described the chaos that accompanied the shooting, with reports saying that bystanders attempted to hide following the shooting, and an armed group—possibly the same one behind the attack—took by force a passenger bus and a cargo truck that were used to block a road for over an hour.

The Secretary of National Defense and the National Guard have since secured the area and are looking for the perpetrators, reports La Prensa.

When asked by a reporter about who was suspected of committing the shooting, President Obrador said it was "the gangs that are operating there."

Ken Salazar, U.S. ambassador to Mexico, said Monday that more needs to be done to better control gang violence in the country, reports La Prensa.

"It doesn't matter where one lives in Mexico, Michoacán, Guanajuato, in the south, Nuevo León, Nuevo Laredo, we have to do much more in terms of security," Salazar said at the annual meeting of members of the American Chamber of Commerce, according to the paper.

Mexico recorded over 33,308 homicides in 2021, following over 34,000 in the previous two years, according to the paper.

Salazar pointed to how the violence has affected trade. Specifically, how in February the inspection and importation of avocados from Mexico were temporarily suspended after a U.S. plant inspector working in Uruapan in Michoacán, a major producing region of avocados, was threatened.

Newsweek has reached out to the Michoacán State Attorney General's Office.