March 31, 2018 / 2:30 AM / 3 months ago

Two die in Acapulco shootout amid panicked Easter procession

ACAPULCO (Reuters) - Dozens of Roman Catholic devotees dressed as ancient Romans and biblical figures fled a Good Friday procession in panic on Friday in the Mexican resort town of Acapulco after gunfire rang out over a nearby car robbery.

Soldiers patrol after a shooting near a Via Crucis representation in Acapulco, Mexico March 30, 2018. REUTERS/Javier Verdin

One of the robbers died from a heart attack during a shootout with police while an accomplice escaped, said the government of Guerrero, one of Mexico’s most violent states.

Minutes after the confrontation, another man in a home nearby was killed in what was reported to police as a subsequent slew of gunfire. No people in the procession were reported injured.

Murder rates in Acapulco and the popular Los Cabos resort further north have soared in recent years as Mexico fights entrenched drug crime.

A soldier keeps watch as people leave an area cordoned off by police after a shooting near a Via Crucis representation in Acapulco, Mexico March 30, 2018. REUTERS/Javier Verdin

Mexico registered a record number of murders last year, staining the reputation of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) whose presidential candidate, Jose Antonio Meade, trails third in polls to win the July 1 election.

Campaigns officially kicked off on Friday, with the second- and fourth-place contenders holding midnight rallies to deliver vows to curb corruption and violence, two of Mexico’s most critical and intertwined issues that are shaping the race.

Slideshow (5 Images)

Meade and leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who ranks first in polls, will launch their campaigns on Sunday.

In Acapulco on Friday, a video verified by Reuters shows onlookers who had just concluded the re-enactment of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion darting in terror down a major street, yelling, “Stay calm, stay calm!”

One man crouched behind a large wooden crucifix propped against a parked car, while a group of men in flowing red capes and Romanesque armor streamed past. Women grabbed hands with children, pushing them through the confused mob.

A shootout also interrupted a Good Friday procession in the violent northern city of Reynosa and left one dead, local media reported.

According to a video aired on television, several dozen religious marchers darted to the sidewalk amid shouts of “Get to the ground!” after the pop-pop of gunfire cut into choral singing.

A Jesus figure wearing white robes tinged with fake blood kneeled behind a giant crucifix as more gunfire rang out, dropping it when a companion yelled for him to “leave the cross!” and take cover off the street.

Writing and additional reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Kim Coghill

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