Federal police executed at least 22 people on a ranch last year, then moved bodies and planted guns to corroborate the official account that the deaths happened in a gunbattle, Mexico's human rights commission says, per the AP. A total of 43 people, including one police officer, were killed in the confrontation in the western state of Michoacan on May 22, 2015. The National Human Rights Commission says five people were killed when a police Black Hawk helicopter fired 4,000 rounds at the ranch house after the officer was shot, the BBC reports. Another 22 were arbitrarily executed, while the circumstances of the other 15 deaths are still unclear, according to the commission.
The lopsided death toll had led to suspicions that officers might have arbitrarily killed people during the operation against suspected members of the Jalisco New Generation cartel. Eighteen of the victims were found barefoot and one just in his underpants, leading the commission to conclude most were asleep when police arrived. Thirteen of the 22 people the commission says were executed had been shot in the back. Mexico's national security commissioner denies the accusations of what the commission called "grave human rights violations," saying federal police ordered the suspects to drop their weapons and surrender, but were answered with gunfire.