The firefight occurred in an area between Michoacan and Jalisco states, an area largely under the control of the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel. In recent weeks, the cartel has launched several attacks against local and federal law enforcement forces.
Speaking to local media, Michoacan Governor Salvador Jara said the "likeliest thing is" that the drug cartel was involved in the shootout. The scene was also close to the community of Barca, in Jalisco state, where authorities found more than five dozen bodies buried in mass graves in 2013. All were linked to the New Generation cartel.
There was no immediate confirmation of the identity of the suspects, but an official speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity said that all the dead were suspected criminals.