Frustration over the disappearance of three university students in Mexico turned to outrage Monday as authorities revealed the men were tortured and killed by cartel members who wrongly suspected them of belonging to a rival gang. Enrolled at Guadalajara's University of Audiovisual Media, Javier Salomon Aceves Gastelum, 25; Marco Avalos, 20; and Jesus Daniel Diaz, 20, were filming a school project at the Tonala home of one of their aunts when they were abducted by armed men dressed as police officers on March 19. The home had previously been used as a safe house by a rival gang of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which had been keeping an eye on it, reports the Washington Post. When car trouble left the students stranded, the cartel apparently saw an opportunity.
Though Gastelum, Avalos, and Diaz had no known connection to criminal gangs, authorities believe they were taken to another home to be interrogated. One of the three was beaten to death before the others were executed, authorities say. Their bodies—and possibly others—were then dissolved at a separate location where 46 barrels of sulfuric acid were found, police add. Students who last month took to the streets to demand the men's safe return in a country that saw its deadliest year with more than 25,000 homicides in 2017 were outraged by the news, even as authorities said two of eight suspects were in custody, per Reuters. "They murdered the film students and dissolved their bodies in acid for doing homework," reads one sample tweet, per the Post. "This country is hell."