VERACRUZ, Mexico – Six police officers and one civilian died and at least 22 people, including 15 police, were injured in a weekend riot at a prison in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz, local authorities reported Sunday.
The riot broke out about 10 pm on Saturday in the La Toma state prison, located in the mountain city of Amatlan de Los Reyes, where 1,300 prisoners demanded that the warden and the police chief at the facility be fired.
Officers with the anti-riot force under the authority of Veracruz’s Public Safety Secretariat entered the prison to try and bring the rioting inmates under control.
The state government in a press release announced that upon entering the facility, the police were ambushed by a group of inmates who had gained access to certain carpentry tools and had set fire to mattresses.
Six police officers and one civilian died of asphyxiation – apparently from smoke from the burning mattresses – according to autopsies performed on their remains, and another 15 officers were injured, one of them seriously.
Among the prisoners, seven inmates were injured, two of them seriously.
The operation concluded about 6 am on Sunday when security forces were finally able to retake full control of the prison.
“The Veracruz Coordination Group regrets these events and expresses its deepest condolences to the relatives and friends of our dear comrades with the State Police who lost their lives carrying out their duty,” said Veracruz Gov. Miguel Angel Yunes in an official statement.
When the governor arrived at the prison about midday on Sunday, he was greeted with angry shouts by relatives of some of the prison’s inmates, who demanded information about what was going on inside the facility.
Outside the prison, Federal Police, Mexican marines, the state police and the Military Police were on guard to prevent inmates’ relatives from gaining entry to the prison.
The incident is one of the most violent prison uprisings in the past decade in Veracruz, which has 17 prisons housing about 7,000 inmates.
The state of Veracruz has been beset by a rising spiral of violence over the past decade due to the presence of drug trafficking gangs and cartels.