BPM Festival Shooting: Eyewitness Tells of Multiple Gunshots, Screaming and Confusion as the Music Kept Playing

View of the Blue Parrot nightclub in Playa del Carmen, Mexico on Jan. 16, 2017.
STR/AFP/Getty Images

View of the Blue Parrot nightclub in Playa del Carmen, Mexico on Jan. 16, 2017.

Chaos and terror is how an eyewitness describes the scene of a shooting that left five dead and many others injured at the BPM Festival in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

Responsibility for the Jan. 16 massacre at the beachfront Blue Parrot nightclub has been claimed by the Mexican cartel Zetas.

Billboard spoke with a female DJ who was playing a club night across the street, whose name has been redacted due to safety concerns. Following her set at Tribeca, an open-air club, she walked over to to the nearby Blue Parrot to meet some friends. But she left after only a few minutes.

“For some reason, I just didn’t want to be there anymore,” she says. “It was packed and there were a lot of people.” Blue Parrot had only one in and out, through the same door, which led to heavy congestion.

She then walked back to Tribeca and sat down at a table with some friends. Minutes later, gunshots went off -- upwards of 20, she recalls.

“All of a sudden, I hear multiple gunshots,” she tells Billboard. “I can see everybody scrambling to get to the ground. I hear glass breaking, tables flipping over, people screaming. I hear gunshots ricocheting off of buildings.”

She recalls people running through the streets screaming, “Gun! Gun! Gun!” They were also jumping fences and running down the beach. “I dove to the ground and tried to crawl over people,” she recalls. “[The gunshots] subsided for a minute, then I heard more, like two or three more.” The DJ wedged herself between a monitor and the bar. She says Tribeca did not turn off the music, which led to confusion and more panic.

“People were screaming and yelling so loud because the music in the club was still playing,” she says. “We didn’t want to get targeted from that. At one point, I thought the gunman was coming into [Tribeca] because so many people were getting up and running upstairs,” she adds. “And there were still gunshots going off.”

She says the staff at Tribeca shuttered the metal gates around the club, making the open-air venue a less obvious target. She then ran upstairs, where people crowded the only window to see what was going on. “When I looked out, there was a man laying on the ground dead,” she says. “All I saw were military police officers and people still running through the streets and trying to get out of Blue Parrot. It was so packed that it took people forever to get out of there.”

She estimates that it took a little over one hour for everyone to exit Blue Parrot and Tribeca after the shootings began. “At that point, everybody is still freaking out because they don't know if the shooter has been caught, or is still at large,” she says. “Me and my friends are panicking, running through the streets trying to figure out how to get back to our hotels because both main roads were blocked off. There were people laying on the ground who had been shot and killed or wounded.”

She saw two people laying dead on one street, and three on another. “Multiple people were limping away or being carried out by people because they got hurt or trampled.”

The DJ believes there was more than one shooter. “I could’ve counted almost 20 bullet shell casings on the ground in front of Tribeca," she says. "People were saying that the shooter was inside Blue Parrot, so I definitely think there was another shooter outside Blue Parrot as well on the street.”

She says police and military responded within 10 minutes, while emergency vehicles responded within 15. “Eventually I made it back to my hotel,” she recalls. “I got in the elevator and just collapsed and couldn’t believe what had happened. It was the scariest thing that had ever happened to me in my life. I thought I was going to die.”

She gives her condolences. “Everybody was having such a good time,” she says. “I feel for everyone affected by this.”

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