MORELIA, Mexico: The leader of one of Mexico’s first anti-crime vigilante groups was arrested along with 26 supporters over a shootout that killed his son and 10 others, authorities said.
Hipolito Mora was taken in on an arrest warrant Saturday for “probable murder” in the bloody December 16 episode with a rival group, said the central government’s special commissioner for Michoacan state, Alfredo Castillo.
Another 26 vigilantes were also apprehended for their involvement, he said.
Farmers and other civilians in the state first took up arms to form the groups in February 2013 claiming that local police were too incompetent or corrupt to protect them from local criminal gangs, especially the cult-like Knights Templar drug cartel.
Mora put up no resistance according to prosecutors as he was arrested for his involvement in the shootout between the two vigilante groups that turned on each other in La Ruana, a small community of some 10,000 people in the western state on Mexico’s Pacific coast.
Mora, a farmer who organized one of La Ruana’s two groups, and the rest of the detainees were transferred to a prison in Morelia, the state capital.
Six of Mora’s followers, including his oldest son, died as well as five members of a rival vigilante group led by Luis Antonio Torres, alias “El Americano,” who is also wanted for arrest and whose whereabouts are unknown.
Both leaders accuse each other of being members of drug cartels. Michoacan is a key trafficking area in the drug trade to the United States.
Mora was in prison from March to April, accused of killing two men loyal to Torres, but was released for lack of evidence.
In May self-defense groups accepted an offer from the government to become legal police units called rural forces.
The clash comes as Mexico is still grappling with the presumed murder of 43 students at the hands of a drug gang in the neighboring state of Guerrero.