LONDON — Gunmen dressed in police uniforms opened fire at a boxing weigh-in in Dublin on Friday while the two fighters stood on stage in nothing but their underwear.
Three men were struck down by bullets from the AK-47s in the incident at the Regency hotel in north Dublin. One has died and the other two are being treated at a hospital.
The gunmen could hardly have chosen a more public event with dozens of cameras and scores of members of the media in attendance the day before a European lightweight boxing showdown that was to be held at Dublin’s national stadium (that has now been canceled).
Detectives told Ireland’s RTE that they were still working on a motive but they believed the shooting may be linked to rival drug cartels.
They reportedly believe this may have been retribution for a gangland hit carried out in Spain last September.
“Two men, who I thought were officers—turns out they were just dressed up in uniform—came in with guns,” Kevin McAnena, a BBC Radio Foyle reporter, told the BBC. He said he saw a man in front of him gunned down.
None of the victims, all of whom were reportedly in their 20s, has been named.
“I jumped over the receptionist’s desk and got on the ground and I started shouting, ‘Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,’ and I think I actually said ‘I’m innocent.’
“At that point, the gunman leaned over the reception desk, looked down at me—pointing the gun at me… I was looking down the barrel of the gun and at this point I think I am going to die. I never knew the meaning of the word terrified until this afternoon.”
The boxing event, which has now been canceled, included a European championship title fight between Jamie Kavanagh and Antonio Jao Bento.
In the aftermath, Kavanagh expressed his relief on Twitter: “I was lucky today is all I can say.”
The title fight was being promoted by partly by MGM Promotions, a Spanish-based gym run by the Irish boxer Matthew Macklin.
Jamie Moore, a former European boxing champion, was shot in the legs two years ago in Marbella, where he was training Macklin.
The president of the Boxing Union of Ireland, Mel Christie, said it was obvious that the boxers were not the targets of the shooting on this occasion.
He was standing on the podium when the automatic weapons rang out. “There was a horrific cracking noise in front of me,” he told the Press Association. “I saw a body, a corpse, lying literally at the edge of the reception desk. So I’m sure he was trapped—he was riddled.”
Christie described a scene of chaos as people dived out of the way. Video footage showed one of the boxers, who was wearing a pair of superman underpants, running for his life.
“I actually saw the sheer fear that will live with them for a long, long time,” he said. “It actually touched me, how afraid—I’m sure adults were afraid, but my God, the children couldn’t believe what was going on.”
Amateur footage taken by one of about 300 attendees captured the cries of a child. “Daddy, help me. Daddy, what was that?” the kid calls out.
A panicked woman is heard asking: “What the fuck is going on?”