18 killed in shootout at hotel in Acapulco
Mexican military, gunmen engage in likely drug battle
ACAPULCO, Mexico - It was a shootout straight from Hollywood in the former playground of its biggest stars: Masked and heavily armed Mexican soldiers battled outlaws holed up in a cliffside mansion in a four-hour shootout that had tourists cowering in hotels nearby.
Roughly 3,000 shots flew, and 50 grenades exploded during the raucous gun battle late Saturday that killed 16 gunmen and two soldiers. Nine other people were wounded, including three bystanders.
More than a dozen tourists were evacuated from a neighboring hotel strip frozen in the 1950s, when Elizabeth Taylor held one of her many weddings in Acapulco and John Wayne and "Tarzan" star Johnny Weissmuller threw lavish parties at Los Flamingos Hotel less than 100 yards from where gunfire broke out.
Cindy Pelaquin and Michelle Johnson, both of Boston, were watching the famous Acapulco cliff divers less than a mile away. They saw the military roadblocks but heard nothing.
"We were just lucky I suppose," said Johnson, a Boston nurse.
One neighbor said it sounded like fireworks. But a Mexican tourist, whose group had just arrived from the Mexico City area, recognized the sound of gunshots and dove under a hotel bed.
The battle erupted after soldiers received a tip that a group of armed men were gathered at a gated house in a seedy section of Acapulco where working-class homes bleed into 1950s mansions.
Several gunmen tried to flee but crashed their car into a military Hummer that was blocking the gate. At one point, more armed men with grenades arrived to reinforce the men in the house, but they died in the shooting, said an army colonel, who led the operation and spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
Inside, soldiers found four Guerrero state police officers bound and half naked who said they were being held hostage. They confiscated 47 guns, grenades, ammunition, and several cars.
Officials are still investigating who the gunmen are. But given the weapons stash, large home, and late-model cars, it looked like the trappings of drug cartels. No drugs were found.