An intentional fire caused the death of at least 11 people and left six others injured in a bar in San Luis Rio Colorado during the early hours of Saturday. According to the Sonora State Prosecutor’s Office, initial reports suggest that a man was expelled from the establishment for harassing several women. Later, he returned with gasoline or another flammable substance, which he used to douse the bar’s entrance, setting it on fire and causing a massive blaze.
Witness videos captured the enormous flames both outside and inside the premises, accompanied by constant explosions, resembling a fireworks display amidst shattered glass. Sirens drew near, breaking the silence of yet another violent night in the Mexican weekend.
The injured are being treated at hospitals in Sonora, and some family members have expressed their desire to transfer them to the United States, as San Luis shares a border with it. The majority of the deceased and injured, although some suffer at least second-degree burns, have been affected by smoke and gas inhalation and the extreme temperatures they endured, according to the State Prosecutor’s Office. The bar’s security cameras were burnt, but the police have been reviewing other recordings and have images of the assailant, as detailed by Prosecutor Gustavo Rómulos Salas Chávez in a press conference. The mayor of the locality, Santos González Yescas, has reported that the perpetrator has been apprehended.
The man had been drinking at several bars in the city before arriving at the Beer House around 12:20 am on Saturday. He continued drinking and about an hour later, got into a dispute involving the harassment of some female customers, leading to his expulsion, as had happened in other bars before, according to the prosecutor. In an agitated state, the intoxicated man went to his red work van, as seen in the reviewed footage. He reversed and positioned the vehicle in front of the establishment, located in the Commercial neighborhood. He got out, circled the van from the front, and poured the fuel on the bar’s door. “We presume he used a blowtorch to start the fire,” stated the prosecutor. There was no bomb, contrary to previous reports. The man fled in his vehicle, and all police forces, local, State of Baja California, and those near the US border, received the alert to apprehend him.
The fire, smoke, and chaos quickly spread inside the Beer House, and firefighters had to retrieve ten bodies, including some musicians who were performing in the venue; another person died immediately at the hospital. In total, seven men and four women lost their lives. The remaining young individuals, all of legal age, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, were safely evacuated through the establishment’s three exits. It has not yet been verified if the bar’s safety conditions were compliant, stated the prosecutor. Salas Chávez categorically ruled out any connection to extortion against the bar owners, stating, “It’s an isolated assailant; witnesses have stated that he was offending some ladies.”
However, this is not an isolated incident. Sonora, like much of the country, experiences sporadic violent deaths. There is no weekend in Mexico without a handful of victims. Sometimes the violence is linked to organized crime, while other times it stems from the general atmosphere of violence permeating the country, where any altercation is settled with force, whether in bars, football stadiums, academic events, baptisms, or domestic disputes. The high number of firearms in the hands of the population is a cause for concern among the authorities, and the porous border with the United States exacerbates the situation.
Like any other year, the statistics of violent deaths in Mexico reveal a daily average of nearly 100 people, placing the country in a context of war, as highlighted by international reports that measure these parameters. By May, there were already 13,000 homicides, as acknowledged by federal security authorities. May itself was the most violent month of the period, with 2,660 intentional homicides and 63 femicides.