Hundreds of armed vigilantes have taken control of Mexican town Tierra Colorado, arresting local police officers and searching homes after one of their leaders was killed.
More than 1,500 members of the area's self-described "community police" were stopping traffic at an improvised checkpoints on Wednesday. The former director of public security in the town and 12 police officers were arrested. Some of the vigilantes opened fire on a car of Mexican tourists headed to the beach for Easter week.
According to the vigilantes, the town’s ex-security director participated in the killing of vigilante leader Guadalupe Quinones Carbajal on behalf of local organized crime groups. They say that the former directors dumped the body of Carbajal, 28, in a nearby town.
"We have besieged the municipality, because here criminals operate with impunity in broad daylight, in view of municipal authorities. We have detained the director of public security because he is involved with criminals and he knows who killed our commander," said Bruno Placido Valerio, a spokesman for the group.
After searching homes in the town and seizing drugs from some, the vigilantes turned over the ex-security director and police officers to state prosecutors. The authorities agreed to investigate their alleged ties to organized crime, reports The Huffington Post.
There is a growing movement of "self-defense" vigilante groups in several parts of southern and western Mexico. The groups stop passing motorists to search for weapons or look for people whose names are on lists of "suspects" wanted for crimes like theft and extortion.
The groups claim to be fighting violence, kidnappings and extortions carried out by drug cartels. There are concerns that the vigilantes are violating the law, the human rights of people they detain, or even cooperating with criminals.