Police Helicopter Shot Down in Mexico

Mexican police forces after a gun battle in Michoacan (File Photo)Mexican police forces after a gun battle in Michoacan (File Photo)

Several people have died after a police helicopter crashed in the western state of Michoacan.

The state’s governor, Silvano Aureoles, originally said criminals brought it down, though now he says the reports have yet to be confirmed.

Hours after writing on Twitter that the helicopter had been shot down by criminal elements, Aureoles distanced himself from his initial statement on Tuesday. He said in a television interview that he couldn’t confirm the reports yet, AFP reported.

 “We are doing the investigations,” he told Televisa network.

The helicopter was on a mission to help arrest the leaders of criminal cells active in the area, which is known for its heavy bouts of gang-related violence.

Aureoles paid tribute to the victims of the crash on Twitter: “We lament the death of the pilot, three police officers and another wounded officer who were fulfilling their duty to uphold peace in the state.”

The helicopter went down near Apatzingan, a city in a region called Tierra Caliente (“Hot Land”), where much of the state’s violence occurs. Last year, members of the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel used a rocket launcher to down a military helicopter. Six soldiers were killed.

Michoacan has one of the highest murder rates in all of Mexico. Members of the Knights Templar drug cartel lorded over much of Tierra Caliente until local lime growers turned vigilante in 2013 in order to fight back against them.