Hundreds of vacationers ran for cover during a shootout at a Hyatt hotel near the popular Mexican resort town of Cancun on Thursday afternoon.
A group of 15 gunmen arrived on the beach by boat wearing ski masks, according to the local state prosecutor quoted in a report by the AP, to assassinate a couple of men “who had showed up saying they were the new dealers in the area.”
The incident, first reported on Twitter, was described by the state prosecutor’s office as a clash between rival drug dealers. The state where it took place, Quintana Roo, is part of the Yucatan Peninsula region where Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun are located.
“There was a confrontation between rival drug dealers on a beach in Bahía Petempich, Puerto Morelos. Two of them died at the scene. There are no serious injuries,” the prosecutor’s office wrote on Twitter Thursday afternoon.
Bahía Petempich beach is located about 20 miles south of downtown Cancun, and, according to Trip Advisor, is “a peaceful village” that’s the “antidote to glitzy Yucatan hot spots like Cancun and Playa del Carmen.”
The shooting outside the Hyatt Ziva hotel comes just two weeks after a shootout at a popular outdoor restaurant in nearby Tulum killed two foreign tourists and wounded three others, leading Mexican authorities to deploy at least 450 soldiers to the resort town to shore up security.
Thursday’s shooting seems destined to further stain the region’s image as a peaceful oasis to Mexico’s drug-related violence. The region, known for its calm turquoise-colored water, attracts millions of tourists from the U.S, Canada and Europe every year.
State Governor Carlos Joaquin called the attack “a serious blow to the development and security of the state ... putting the image of the state at grave risk,” reported the AP.
In a video posted to Twitter, hotel guests and staff are seen huddling in the halls, apparently hiding from the shooters. The video was posted by Mike Sington, a former senior executive at NBCUniversal, with the message: “All guests and employees told to duck, and we’re all taken to hiding places at Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancun Resort. Active shooter? Terrorist or kidnapping threat? They’re not telling us anything.”
He later wrote “Guests are telling me they were playing volleyball on the beach, gunman approached firing gun. Everyone ran from beach and swimming pools.”
About an hour later, Sington posted a different video of hundreds of guests in the hotel lobby, many of them barefoot and wearing bathing suits. A man with an American accent speaking from the balcony asks the guests to be “quiet as you can be,” but says “we are all safe at this time.” A woman, also with an American accent, adds that the suspect “has been apprehended.” It’s unclear if the people speaking are guests or work at the hotel.
A man named Andrew Krop wrote on Twitter that he was on a call with the U.S. Embassy seeking help for his husband, who was at the hotel. “Men with guns stormed the beach and started shooting. Please spread the word and get help on this. I have no idea what to do.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico told VICE World News that it’s “aware of the reports and the U.S. Consulate in Merida is looking into the incident.” A receptionist at the Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancun described the shoot-out as a “small situation” that occurred on the public beach outside the hotel, adding that “everything is under control.”
The homicide rate in Quintana Roo is low compared to other parts of Mexico. But the money brought in by tourism can encourage extortion markets to spring up, and the demand for cocaine, weed and other drugs from visitors creates competition around the local drug market.
In June, an American woman was hospitalized in Cancun after a beachside shooting left two people dead. A pair of assassins on a jet ski fired 10 to 15 shots, killing street vendors who sold crafts to tourists.
Update: This story was updated on Friday November 5th to include new details about the shooting including the arrival of the assailants by boat and wearing ski masks, as well as comments from the state governor.