Eyewitness accounts obtained by Billboard indicate that multiple shooters were involved in the attack on Monday (Jan. 16) that left five dead and 15 injured at the Blue Parrot nightclub during The BPM Festival in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
The new testimonies call into question the police’s version of events, cited in the festival’s official statement, which claims a lone gunman carried out the shooting.
The Quintana Roo District Attorney’s office declined to comment to Billboard on the shooting details. They said the attack was likely drug-related, and in the strongest of three working hypotheses, indicated it had targeted a single person.
The BPM Festival also declined to comment to Billboard while the official investigation is underway.
A 28-year-old attendee from Sydney, Australia tells Billboard that he saw five Mexican men in black leather jackets attempt to gain entry to the Blue Parrot.
“They got denied because they didn’t want to be patted down,” he says. “Three of them left out of our vision and two of them shot security guards at the entrance, ran in and aimlessly opened fire. There were two guys there, not one like the news incorrectly reports.”
The attendee says he later saw one of the gunmen walking through a police perimeter along the main route to Playa del Carmen’s Calle Quinta Avenida. The gunman was dressed in a button-down shirt, fedora hat and glasses, and was no longer wearing a leather jacket.
“One of the dudes I saw try to get in was just casually walking with everyone else with the gun in his hand,” he says. “We looked at each other and he sort of waved it at me, as in ‘it’s none of my business, keep walking,’ and I wondered why the police were not doing a single thing.”
His account of five potential gunmen comports with an uncorroborated report by local publication Semanario Playa News, which also reported that the Zetas cartel claimed responsibility for the attack. Quintana Roo state, where Playa del Carmen is located, is notorious for cartel drug-trafficking (one source called the area a “drug supermarket”).
A 40-year-old Washington resident tells Billboard that she saw two shooters inside the Blue Parrot club and describes a scene of “pure mayhem.”
“I was on the raised wooden deck and saw two different shooters,” she says. “I then hid under the deck at the back near the beach and heard three rounds of shots before I crawled back out to jump the fence.”
A 23-year-old Los Angeles resident tells Billboard that his friends noticed people “lining up in strange formations” outside the Blue Parrot before the gunshots.
“Outside the club it seemed like there were people actually squaring up as though it might have been cartel-related,” he says. “It gave them the feeling that something was about to happen.”
“There’s no way there was just one shooter,” an industry source tells Billboard. He escaped from the Blue Parrot after hearing the first of what he describes as three rounds of gunfire, the last of which he heard two blocks away from the Blue Parrot amid a heavy police presence.
“It couldn’t be in the same spot,” he says. “I must have heard shots that happened from the beach or street. How can one guy be shooting all this and not get caught?”
He also witnessed people “yelling that they saw somebody shooting from a car,” and cites friends’ accounts of gunmen both inside and outside the club and on the beach.
An internationally-known male DJ/producer, who escaped from the Blue Parrot by jumping over a beachfront fence at the back of the club, tells Billboard that he too is confident the shooting involved multiple gunmen.
“When we hopped the fence, there were already people down on the other side,” he says. “People that were with us saw a gunman running down the beach as well. There was definitely someone at the top of the beach coming down because everyone just started running down the other way being, like, ‘There’s another f–king gunman.'”
Citing BPM’s closing night at its “most iconic” venue, he says the shooting “felt like a statement” and the official version of events “does not check out” to him.
“I just want people to know the truth, because it was not just some crazy lone gunman,” he says. “I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right.”
Note: All source’s names have been redacted due to safety concerns.