MEXICO CITY: Mexican authorities investigated on Tuesday whether a feud over local drug sales was behind a nightclub shooting that killed three foreigners and two Mexicans at a popular beach resort.
Monday’s shooting at the Blue Parrot club during the BPM electronic music festival rocked Playa del Carmen, a usually peaceful Caribbean seaside town.
While the resort — popular among American, Canadian and European tourists — has been spared from the gang violence plaguing other parts of Mexico, drug dealers regularly approach foreigners to sell them narcotics.
The shooting “could be a case of small-time drug dealers fighting for control” of turf, said Miguel Angel Pech, attorney general of Quintana Roo state.
Pech said the gunman fired five times at a Mexican man at the Blue Parrot club before dawn on Monday.
The victim’s bodyguards or other people protecting him fired back “to repel the attack,” Pech told the Televisa network.
When the shooter fled the club, he hit another person who was also armed and whose gun went off when he fell, hitting other people, Pech said.
“That is why people were injured in the feet and buttocks,” he said.
A Canadian man and an Italian man, both of whom worked for the BPM electronic music festival, and a Mexican man, died from bullet wounds.
An American woman was trampled to death in a stampede as people fled the club in panic. Fifteen other people were wounded by bullets or hurt in the stampede.
– Four people detained –
Four people were detained near the scene of the crime and authorities are investigating if they were connected to the shooting.
Officials are also investigating whether the shooter showed up to kill the Mexican man, or whether the incident was linked to a dispute over an extortion racket against the club, or the dealers were not allowed to sell drugs inside the club.
Authorities are probing the background of the Mexican victim, who is originally from the eastern state of Veracruz. His family said he worked for a phone company and that he was related to a Veracruz state government official.
While authorities have surveillance camera footage, it is insufficient to identify the shooter, Pech said.
Officials had suggested on Monday that the shooting was linked to a personal conflict between two people. Earlier, they reported that the gunfire erupted after the gunman was denied entry at the club.
According to local prosecutors, the five deceased victims are Kirk Wilson of Canada, Italian Daniel Pessina, Alejandra Villanueva Ibarra from the United States and the Mexicans Rafael Penaloza Vega and Francisco Ruiz Murillo.
Witnesses described scenes of terror in the club when the shooting broke out.
Amateur video footage showed people cowering and running down the street.
The BPM festival said in a statement that three of its security guards were killed “trying to protect patrons inside the venue.”
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.
“We thought it was fireworks placed in the club,” he said. “Then we realized that someone had entered through the exit door and had begun shooting.”