American tourist shot in drug dealers gunfight in Cancun thought ‘the gunmen would kill everyone’

American tourist shot in drug dealers gunfight in Cancun thought


An American tourist thought he was going to die after he was shot in the pool at his luxurious resort while caught in the crosshairs of a gunfight between rival drug gangs in Cancun. 

The shootout at the $400-a-night Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancún and adjacent Azul Beach Resort on November 4 in Puerto Morelos, south of Cancún, left two dead and four American tourists injured. 

Tanner VanValkenburg told Good Morning America he thought ‘the gunmen were gonna come and kill everyone’ when the gunfire broke out in broad daylight. 

VanValkenburg, an Instagram coach, flew to Cancun two weeks ago to spend time with his partner and two friends. 

The group was lounging in the outdoor area of the Hyatt resort eating tacos when they heard loud noises. At first, VanValkenburg thought fireworks were being set off but ‘then more started going off and everyone started to panic and run.’ 

Tanner VanValkenburg was shot in the back while jumping into the pool at his Mexican resort after gang members opened fire on crowd after executing two rival drug dealers on the beach

Tanner VanValkenburg was shot in the back while jumping into the pool at his Mexican resort after gang members opened fire on crowd after executing two rival drug dealers on the beach

VanValkenburg (right) was staying at the luxurious Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancún on November 4 when he was caught in the cross hairs of the local drug dealers' gun fire

VanValkenburg (right) was staying at the luxurious Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancún on November 4 when he was caught in the cross hairs of the local drug dealers’ gun fire 

While hiding in the pool after being shot VanValkenburg: 'honestly thought I was going to die because I thought that the gun men were gonna come and kill everyone'

While hiding in the pool after being shot VanValkenburg: ‘honestly thought I was going to die because I thought that the gun men were gonna come and kill everyone’

The armed gang members shot two rival gang members dead on the beach and then continued firing at the resort as everyone was ‘running for (their) lives.’  

VanValkenburg and others around him headed to the pool bar for safety. But as the young entrepreneur jumped into the water he was shot in the back mid-dive. 

‘Damn that feeling I’ll never forget after that I went in shock,’ VanValkenburg shared on his Facebook. 

He described how he made it over to one side of the pool covering his gushing wound with his hand, putting as much pressure on it as he could manage. 

‘As blood was coming out I thought to myself this is it this is how I’m going to go,’ he wrote. The gunman walked past the pool where VanValkenburg and others were ‘hiding and in shock.’  

‘I honestly thought I was going to die because I thought that the gun men were gonna come and kill everyone,’ he later said. 

VanValkenburg was taken to a local hospital for treatment. The bullet is still lodged inside him. He was placed in an arm sling and said he has ‘not much movement’ in his arm but posted pictures giving the camera a thumbs up. 

After being released from the hospital, he returned to the resort before safely flying home to the U.S. 

He was rushed to a local hospital for treament. The bullet is still lodged inside his back

He was rushed to a local hospital for treament. The bullet is still lodged inside his back

VanValkenburg (left) shared this picture on Facebook informing his friends and family that he has 'not much movement' in his arm but is on the long road to recovery

VanValkenburg (left) shared this picture on Facebook informing his friends and family that he has ‘not much movement’ in his arm but is on the long road to recovery 

VanValkenburg (left) was one of four Americans injured during the shooting on November 4

VanValkenburg (left) was one of four Americans injured during the shooting on November 4

Mexican authorities arrived on the scene to respond to the situation after the shooting

 Mexican authorities arrived on the scene to respond to the situation after the shooting 

Hotel workers were seen leaving the hotel after local police arrived to investigate the scene

Hotel workers were seen leaving the hotel after local police arrived to investigate the scene

Armed Mexican soldiers in full military gear walked out outside the high-end hotel which the Quintana Roo State Attorney General's Office described as lucrative drug trade turf

Armed Mexican soldiers in full military gear walked out outside the high-end hotel which the Quintana Roo State Attorney General’s Office described as lucrative drug trade turf 

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico issued an alert about the shooting hours after it happened. The Department of State issued a Level 3 travel advisory warning citizens to reconsider travel to the country due to crime and kidnapping. Some areas in the country were listed under ‘Do Not Travel To’ while Quintana Roo, where Thursday’s shooting occurred, is listed under ‘Exercise Increased Caution When Traveling To.’ 

The shocking scene at the Hyatt Ziva Riviera was captured by surveillance cameras as the group of assassins calmly walked across a beach near the hotel in Mexico before they gunned down two drug dealers in broad daylight and escaped boarding speedboats to make their getaway.  

The attackers sent scores of guests running for cover at the high-end resort, in what the Quintana Roo State Attorney General’s Office described as a dispute over control of the lucrative drug trade turf.

The horrific scene was the latest chapter in drug gang violence that has sullied the reputation of Mexico’s Caribbean coast as a once-tranquil oasis. 

The 15 armed men were picked up by security cameras wandering near the hotel property around 2pm local time and were later shown by another surveillance camera tackling an alleged drug dealer to the sand before he was dragged away and shot dead.

A hotel worker is seen running towards the Hyatt Ziva Hotel. Gunmen reportedly killed a second drug pusher just steps away from the hotel, where he attempted to seek refuge.  

Still image from a surveillance camera shows gunmen rushing towards Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancún during an attack that left two rival drug dealers dead last Thursday. The Quintana Roo State Attorney General's Office described the incident as a dispute over control of the lucrative drug trade turf

Still image from a surveillance camera shows gunmen rushing towards Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancún during an attack that left two rival drug dealers dead last Thursday. The Quintana Roo State Attorney General’s Office described the incident as a dispute over control of the lucrative drug trade turf

César 'G' was arrested by authorities in Quintana Roo, Mexico, for his role in last Thursday's attack that left 15 people dead. He confessed to driving the attackers, who killed two rival drug dealers in front of a hotel in Puerto Morelos, south of Cancún

Miguel 'Y' is one of two suspects that have been arrested in connection to the murder of two rival drug dealers outside a resort in Puerto Morelos last Thursday

César ‘G’ and Miguel ‘Y’ drove the 15 attackers to the area near the Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancún and Azul Beach Resort last Thursday in Puerto Morelos were the gunmen killed two rival dealers. The two suspects confessed to authorities that the incident was fueled by two feuding gangs linked to the Sinaloa Cartel

A different camera showed the gunmen walking through the beach shore and boarding two vessels to escape via Petempich Bay.

The Quintana Roo State Attorney General’s Office announced Friday the apprehensions of two men, identified as César ‘G’ and Miguel ‘Y’. Both men confessed to authorities that they transported the attackers to the hotel area before they unleashed the attack.

Three members of the group that was attacked – Alexander ‘C’, Gael ‘P’ and José ‘P’ – were also arrested Friday. 

Initial investigations show that the gun attack was sparked by the ongoing feud between two drug dealing factions connected to Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel.

The Quintana Roo State Attorney General’s Office said the attacks were ordered by jailed Sinaloa Cartel members Josué ‘S’ and Hugo ‘P’ who are being held at the Benito Juárez Social Rehabilitation Center. 

Authorities are also looking to arrest Uriel ‘P’ for his role in orchestrating the attack. 

Data released by Mexico’s Secretary General of National Public Security showed that the state of Quintana Roo reported 442 murders between January and September 2021 compared with 463 over the same period last year.

However, the Caribbean coast cities of Benito Juárez – home to Cancún – Puerto Morelos, Solidaridad and Tulum, whose resorts attract about 20 million visitors a year, were the deadliest with 379 murders compared to 383 homicides in 2020.    

The shooting in Puerto Morelos took place two weeks after a shootout at a restaurant in Tulum left two foreign tourists dead – including a California resident – and three others wounded. Law enforcement has produced nine arrests tied to that incident.

A security camera shows a group of armed assassins pacing through a beachfront hotel property in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, last Thursday before they killed two rival drug dealers

A security camera shows a group of armed assassins pacing through a beachfront hotel property in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, last Thursday before they killed two rival drug dealers

A group of gunmen linked to the Sinaloa Cartel walk on a beach in Puerto Morelos before they set off an attack that left two rival drug dealers dead. Both groups involved in the shooting are linked to the Sinaloa Cartel

A group of gunmen linked to the Sinaloa Cartel walk on a beach in Puerto Morelos before they set off an attack that left two rival drug dealers dead. Both groups involved in the shooting are linked to the Sinaloa Cartel

Quintana Roo attorney general Oscar Montes de Oca told Imagen Radio station that there are close to 10 gangs disputing the street drug sale business in Tulum and that another two are battling for positioning in Puerto Morelos.

The heavy presence of 20 million tourists throughout the Caribbean coastal state had driven a rise in drug sales.

‘We are facing an issue of supply and demand for drugs,’ Montes de Oca said.

Governor Carlos  called the attack ‘a serious blow to the development and security of the state … putting the image of the state at grave risk.’ 

Antonio Chaves, the leader of Maya Riviera Hotel Association, told The Associated Press the shootings would impact the state’s tourism industry, which is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

‘Clearly, we are going to suffer setbacks in the very short term,’ Chaves said, adding that, even though it causes suffering, it’s unlikely to deter drug gangs.

‘They are criminal groups that don’t care about the place, the time, the surroundings, and that affects the tourism zone,’ he said.

Mike Sington, a Twitter user whose biography says he is an executive at NBC Universal,  tweeted the above image of guests and employees at the Hyatt Zica Rivera Cancún Hotel after 15 armed men killed two rival drug dealers last Thursday in Puerto Morelos, Mexico

Mike Sington, a Twitter user whose biography says he is an executive at NBC Universal,  tweeted the above image of guests and employees at the Hyatt Zica Rivera Cancún Hotel after 15 armed men killed two rival drug dealers last Thursday in Puerto Morelos, Mexico

Mike Sington, a Twitter user whose biography says he is an executive at NBC Universal, said guests were instructed to hide in their rooms and barricade the doors

Mike Sington, a Twitter user whose biography says he is an executive at NBC Universal, said guests were instructed to hide in their rooms and barricade the doors 

Guests at both resorts posted social media images of tourists hiding or nervously milling in the lobbies on Thursday afternoon. 

Mike Sington, a Twitter user whose biography indicates he is an executive at NBC Universal, said guests were instructed to hide in their rooms and barricade the doors 

Keith Jackson, a tourist from London, England, left the beach just before the shooting. But he said Friday, ‘We’re not sure we would come back. We’re not sure we would come back after this.’

‘The two women that were killed in Tulum, you know, in the crossfire, you know, this is what happened,’ Jackson said. ‘So we all kind of worried that something will happen while we’re there and we’ll get caught in the in the action.’



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A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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