Orlando shooting: How a Marine veteran’s quick thinking helped save dozens of lives
A former US Marine saved dozens of lives during the Orlando shooting after recognising the sound of 'high-calibre' gunfire inside the venue.
Pulse nightclub bouncer Imran Yousuf’s quick thinking helped save up to 70 people trapped inside the venue as Omar Mateen killed 49 and injured 53 in America’s worst-ever mass shooting.
The 24-year-old, who served in Afghanistan and left the Marine Corps two months ago, described how “everyone froze” when the first shots were fired, in an emotional interview with CBS News.
“The initial one was three or four (shots). That was a shock,” he said. “Three or four shots go off and you could tell it was a high calibre.
“Everyone froze. I'm here in the back and I saw people start pouring into the back hallway, and they just sardine pack everyone.”
He explained that he knew there was a door leading to the street outside and decided to “take a chance” to try and open it so people could escape.
“And I'm screaming 'Open the door! Open the door!' And no one is moving because they are scared,” he explained.
“There was only one choice. Either we all stay there and we all die, or I could take the chance, and I jumped over to open that latch and we got everyone that we [could] out of there.”
Asked how many people he helped escape, he said: “Probably over 60, 70. As soon as people found that door was open they kept pouring out and after that we just ran.”
He added: “I wish I could have saved more to be honest. There are a lot of people that are dead ...there are a lot of people that are dead.”
Speaking to the Gazette, Imran’s brother Ameer Yousuf said: “This was so unexpected but because of my brother’s training in the Marine Corps, he was prepared and used strategies from that to do everything he did.
“Because of his training, he knew to remove his security shirt and how to think as quickly as he did.”
In a now-deleted Facebook post, the former marine said he “just reacted” when he heard the gunfire.
“There are a lot of people naming me a hero and as a former marine and Afghan veteran I honestly believe I reacted by instinct,” he wrote.
“I have lost a few of my friends that night which I am just finding out about right now and while it might seem that my actions are heroic I decided that the others around me needed to be saved as well and so I just reacted.”
He added: “We need to show our love and profound efforts to the families and friends who have lost someone and help them cope with what happened and turn our efforts to those who truly need it.
“Once again I sincerely thank everyone and bless all those who are recovering and trying to make sense of it all.”
Meanwhile, comfort dogs have been flown in to Florida from different US states to offer emotional support to grieving victims and families of the Orlando shooting.
The LGBT community is also showing solidarity with Orlando online using the hashtag #GaysBreakTheInternet.