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14 April 2024

Five dead in shooting at Mexico music festival

Police officers stand outside the Blue Parrot nightclub after a gunman opened fire. REUTERS


A shooting erupted during an electronic music festival at a Mexican beach resort early Monday, leaving five people dead, including one in a stampede as revelers fled in panic.

Fifteen other people were injured in the melee after a gunman opened fire on security guards preventing him from entering the Blue Parrot nightclub during the BPM festival in Playa del Carmen, the Quintana Roo state prosecutor's office said in a statement.

According to the state's governor Roberto Borge the gunfire stemmed from "a personal conflict" between two individuals.

According to local prosecutors the five deceased victims are the Canadian Kirk Wilson, the Italian Daniel Pessina, the American Alejandra Villanueva Ibarra and the Mexicans Rafael Penaloza Vega and Francisco Ruiz Murillo.

The shooting sowed terror in a part of Mexico that has been largely spared from the drug violence afflicting other parts of the country.

Playa del Carmen and nearby Cancun are in a Caribbean region known as the Mayan Riviera, which is popular among American and European tourists.

"We suddenly had to jump over the metal security barriers because they were shooting. It was horrible. We were very scared," Eric Alvarez, a 40-year-old Mexican DJ, told AFP outside the club, which has a blue parrot painted on the facade.

"A lot of people were panicking," said Alvarez, who lost his prosthetic teeth while fleeing.

The Italian man was shot dead while another man died from bullet wounds at a hospital, according to local prosecutors.

"Witnesses said that a person tried to enter the establishment with a weapon but was blocked by security guards, triggering the attack," said the statement from Pech's office.

Prosecutor Miguel Angel Pech said two people, apparently security guards, had fired back at the assailant.

Four people were detained near the scene of the crime and authorities are investigating if they were connected to the shooting, he added.

'Bodies on the ground'

Rashed Qassem, a Lebanese events promoter who lives in the United States, told AFP he was sitting at a table near the club's exit when the shooting started.

"We thought it was fireworks placed in the club. Then we realized that someone had entered through the exit door and had begun shooting," Qassem said.

Qassem, 36, saw a man fall to the ground after he suffered a head wound. Then one of his friends was shot in the back.

"When it became clear that someone was shooting, everyone went into a state of panic. We immediately threw ourselves to the ground as the gunman continued shooting, after he killed a guard at the entrance," he said.

"He fired more than 10 times before he left via the exit door. We kept lying on the ground until the police arrived and asked us to leave."

Amateur video footage showed people cowering and running down the street.

An editor for London-based music magazine Mixmag who was in the backstage area of the Blue Parrot said at least four or five shots were fired at around 2:45 (0745 GMT) or 3 am.

"People started running because there's an exit in the back. We stopped and hid behind a cement wall, then crawled under a metal table," Valerie Lee, Mixmag's US digital editor, was quoted as saying by the magazine.

"Security guards at first didn't think it was shots and kept claiming it was fireworks, saying everything was OK. Then people kept running and said they saw a gun. We kept hiding until they opened the back gate and we ran outside," Lee said.

Lee wrote on Twitter that the music was so loud that people likely didn't hear the gunshots inside.

She said friends outside the entrance were just six meters (20 feet) from the shooter and that there were "bodies on the ground."

'Senseless' violence

The Colombian foreign ministry said Quintana Roo authorities had informed them that "no citizens of Colombian nationality died in the shooting," as authorities had previously thought.

The BPM festival said in a statement that three of its security guards were killed "trying to protect patrons inside the venue."

The festival said organizers worked with local authorities throughout the event to ensure public safety and were cooperating with the investigation.

"We are overcome with grief over this senseless act of violence," the statement said.