One Canadian was among at least five people killed Monday in a shooting at an electronic music festival in Mexico’s Caribbean coast resort of Playa del Carmen, authorities said.
Quintana Roo state Attorney General Miguel Angel Pech ruled out any terror attack, but said the shooting erupted when festival security personnel tried to stop a man from entering the club with a gun.
The shooting set off a bloody stampede by screaming concertgoers at the international festival in the resort. Pech said three of those killed were part of the security detail at the festival.
Pech said the shooting happened at the Blue Parrot nightclub about 2:30 a.m. Blue Parrot is one of the BPM Festival’s venues in Playa del Carmen, just south of Cancun.
The gunman apparently fled after the attack.
State officials initially said the dead included two Canadians, an Italian and a Colombian.
The Quintana Roo state government said the dead included Kirk Wilson, a Hamilton, Ont.-based father who the state identified as the BPM security supervisor at Blue Parrot, as well as Daniel Pessina and Rafael Antonio Penaloza Vega, whose nationalities weren’t disclosed.
Global Affairs Canada released a statement Monday night saying Wilson was the only Canadian killed in the shooting. The department also expressed its sympathies to Wilson’s family and friends.
“The second fatality that was previously reported in the media as being a Canadian has been identified as not a Canadian citizen,” Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman Natasha Nystrom told Global News in an email, adding officials are unable to release additional details on the victims due to privacy reasons.
“Consular officials in Playa Del Carmen and Mexico City are in ongoing contact with local authorities as they continue to address this tragic incident, and are providing consular assistance to Canadian citizens affected by the incident, including two who have been injured.”
Local media identified the two injured Canadians as Robert Griffin, 33, and Mario José Juan, 47.
Pech added three people had been detained nearby, but it was unclear whether they were involved in the shooting.
“We know of another shooting incident that occurred near the nightclub, but we are investigating whether that is related to the nightclub shootings,” Pech said.
The government of the township that includes Playa de Carmen referred in a statement to “attackers who fired shots,” but did not provide further details.
The shots set off a rush for the exits that accounted for at least some of the injuries. The lone female victim was apparently killed during the stampede. Rescue workers tended to bloodied survivors and Pech said 15 people were injured, including one Mexican woman who was seriously hurt.
Pech said eight of the injured — including two U.S. citizens — had been treated for less serious injuries at local hospitals and released. Italy’s Foreign Ministry confirmed one of its citizens died.
The gunman began to exchange fire with another person inside, Pech said, and festival security personnel who tried to stop the shooting came under fire. He said 20 bullet casings from three different pistols were found at the scene and that it was unclear if the security detail had been armed or fired any of the weapons.
Rodolfo Del Angel, director of police in the state of Quintana Roo, told the Milenio TV station that he shooting was the result of “a disagreement between people inside” the nightclub and said security guards had come under fire when they tried to contain the dispute.
Friends said Wilson, 49, was a veteran of the local event security industry who was working at the event in Playa del Carmen.
Adrian Marshall, who worked with Wilson for more than six years in the industry, said his death was “shocking” and friends were still processing his death.
“He was such an amazing guy … there was never a time where he didn’t say ‘hello’, he didn’t stop to shake your hand. I mean a firm hand grip, ask how you were doing, smile on his face, professional,” he said, adding friends informed him of Wilson’s passing on social media.
“My heart sank, I said I hope it’s not Kirk. But I knew. And then a picture came out and it was him … that’s when it really hit home that it was him.”
Marshall said Wilson made a career out of freelancing private security for events, venues and government and that he was a “consummate professional.”
“There was a presence about him that you knew that you were safe, he was always calm, he always trying to calm people down or pacify situations, he was a professional completely. If there was a definition of a professional security guy he would be it for sure,” he said, adding Wilson had two children.
“He was dedicated, he was there all the time. I know that this is reverberating in the industry for people who have been around for a while and for me I knew him as a person, not just as a doorman, but I knew him as a guy and I knew that he had kids and at the end of the day I’m crestfallen.”
Zark Fatah, a private security professional who worked with Wilson for more than 15 years at various events and venues in Toronto, said he was in Playa del Carmen last week and spoke with Wilson while there.
“For as big and intimidating as he is, he never had to lay hands on anyone, he was able to talk to people with respect, courtesy, he was able to diffuse situations just by talking to people in a civilized way.”
“He was a true professional. He’s a veteran of the business, it’s devastating, the Toronto nightlife community all love and respect him so this is a great loss and very tragic.”
INK Entertainment, a company that employed Wilson in Toronto, also expressed its condolences.
“We can confirm that Kirk Wilson was a longtime employee and great friend of INK Entertainment,” the firm said in a statement. “Our team is overcome with grief over this terrible tragedy and would like to express our sincerest condolences to his family and friends for their loss.”
Fatah said Wilson worked with REBEL nightclub and other venues in Toronto including Maison Mercer and The Everleigh.
“He was the guy you called in when you needed that extra element of reinforcement, he just knew how to handle anyone in the nicest way possible,” Fatah said.
“Kirk is the type of guy that if a gun was pulled, he’s going to jump in front of it. He would definitely put himself before others and that’s one of the many amazing qualities about him is that he was a true professional.
“He had saved many people in the past and I don’t doubt for a minute that he may have saved many other lives by getting directly involved and stopping that.”
Global Affairs did not release any additional information about the victims, citing privacy concerns but said in an emailed statement their “thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of all of the victims of the shooting in Playa del Carmen.”
“Consular officials in Playa Del Carmen and Mexico City are in ongoing contact with local authorities as they continue to address this tragic incident, and are providing consular assistance to Canadian citizens affected by the incident, including two who have been injured,” Global Affairs spokeswoman Jocelyn Sweet said in an email.
BPM – which stands for “Bartenders, Promoters and Musicians” – is a popular annual 10-day festival, co-founded by a pair of Canadians and held annually in the Mexican resort town since in 2008. This year’s edition was wrapping up early Monday when the violence erupted.
In a statement posted to Facebook, the BPM Festival said, “We are overcome with grief over this senseless act of violence and we are cooperating fully with local law enforcement and government officials as they continue their investigation.”
BPM organizers added three members of their security team were killed in the shooting.
Witnesses described the scene as “chaotic” on Twitter. Videos purportedly shot at the scene appear to show dancers ducking for cover and out on the streets running to safety.
The Blue Parrot is one of the venues at the 10-day festival in Playa del Carmen, a tourist destination that has largely been spared the violence that has hit other parts of Mexico.
Quintana Roo and the surrounding Yucatan peninsula have traditionally been less violent than other parts of Mexico, with relatively low murder rates. However, with many foreign tourists and a vibrant night life scene, there has long been an important local drug market in and around Playa Del Carmen.
– With files from Marianne Dimain, Adam Miller, Nick Westoll, The Canadian Press and Reuters