MEXICO CITY — Four police officers were shot to death after being drawn into an ambush in western Mexico, and as many as eight suspected attackers were killed in a gunbattle with other police who rushed to the site, authorites said Thursday.
Luis Joaquín Méndez, chief prosecutor of the western state of Jalisco, said four municipal policemen in the city of El Salto responded to a call late Wednesday about armed men at a house.
Once they arrived, a woman answered the door and told them nothing was wrong. But gunmen inside then opened fire on the officers, some of whom were dragged into the home and killed, the prosecutor said.
Gov. Enrique Alfaro wrote that police reinforcements showed up and engaged in a shootout with the suspects, killing eight and wounding three.
Later, the prosecutor's office said nine bodies were found at the house — the four police officers and five suspected gunmen. Three more bodies — two men and a woman — were found at a property nearby, they said
Prosecutors said the dead were probably members of a gang that apparently held kidnap victims at one of the properties. Investigators also found the hacked up remains of another man in plastic bags.
Ricardo Santillán, police chief of El Salto, called the ambush "a cowardly act."
The Roman Catholic Mexican Council of Bishops issued an open letter Thursday calling on the government to change course on security, commenting three days after two Jesuits priests were allegedly killed by a drug gang leader inside their church in a remote town in northern Mexico.
"It is time to revise the security policies that are failing," the bishops wrote, calling for a "national dialogue" to find solutions.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has declared his government is no longer focused on detaining drug cartel leaders, and in 2019 he ordered the release of a captured leader of the Sinaloa cartel to avoid bloodshed.
López Obrador has implemented a strategy he calls "hugs, not bullets" and has sometimes appeared to tolerate the gangs, even praising them at one point for not interfering in elections.
Asked at his daily morning news briefing if he intended to change strategies, López Obrador said, "No, rather the reverse, this is the right path."
He faced questions about the fact that there have been more killings in his 3 1/2 years in office than in all six years under President Felipe Calderón in 2006-2012, whom López Obrador frequently accuses of being responsible for unnecessary bloodshed.
"It's just that we received a homicide rate that was at its peak, way up, and Calderón wasn't handed the country like that. He ratched it up," López Obrador said.