Published on June 13, 2016
Last Sunday, June 12, a man walked into a gay nightclub called “Pulse” in Orlando, FL, and opened fire, killing 49 people and injuring 53. The gunman lived in Fort Pierce, West Palm Beach, FL, about 120 miles away from the Orlando nightclub.
Here is the story of what happened at Pulse that night.
Omar Mateen parks outside the club just before 2 in the morning, and enters the club, carrying an AR-15-type assault rifle and a handgun, and opens fire.
An off-duty officer working for the nightclub engages in a gun battle with the Mateen near one of the entrances.
Other officers notice the commotion and engage in the battle. The gunman retreats to a bathroom; he holds 4 to 5 people hostage.
About 15 to 20 people are in the next restroom. People are hiding, texting their friends and family.
Inside, those on the dance floor aren’t sure if what they heard was just part of the DJ’s set.
“Everyone was getting on the floor. … I thought it was just part of the music, until I saw fire coming out of his gun,” patron Rose Feba explained to the Orlando Sentinel.
Mina Justice was sound asleep when she received the first text from her son, Eddie Justice, who was in the club.
“Mommy I love you,” the first message said. It was 2:06 a.m.”In club they shooting.”
A SWAT team and an armored vehicle arrives. A team of crisis mediators begin to negotiate with Mateen.
At one point, Mateen had made a 911 call, beginning a series of conversations with the police during which he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and mentioning “bomb vests and explosives,” which spurred the officials’ decision to launch a rescue operation.
It is now 5 in the morning; police attempt to blow a hole in the outer wall of the restroom, but the wall isn’t fully pierced.
Next, officers use the armored vehicle to puncture the wall, which allows some hostages to escape. The Mateen exits through the wall, carrying a handgun and long gun.
He is killed in a shootout with the police. One officer was shot in the head, but his Kevlar helmet prevented serious injury. At least 30 people were found alive.
Patrons speak after the commotion and explain what happened.
“My first thought was, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to die,” one patron said, his voice very quiet. “I was praying to God that I would live to see another day. I couldn’t believe this was happening.”
At 2:09 AM, Pulse posted a chilling, hurried message on its Facebook page: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”
Brand White and his cousin were on the dance floor in the main room when White’s cousin yelled to him, “B, it’s a guy with a bomb!” Before he knew it, White was hit in the shoulder.
“All of a sudden it just started like a rolling thunder, loud and everything went black,” White wrote in a Facebook message to an Associated Press reporter from his hospital room Sunday. “I think I was trampled.”
He didn’t recall leaving the club, but he remembered his state: “Covered head to toe in blood.”
“I remember screaming and mass chaos,” he wrote. “There were hundreds of people there.”
He made it to the hospital, where he got a blood transfusion. As Sunday went on, his cousin remained missing.
Brett Rigas and his partner also were dancing in the main room when they heard the crack of gunfire. “About 70 bullets,” Rigas described in a terse Facebook message.
He was shot in the arm and a man next to him was struck in the leg before police entered the room.
“I was behind the bar with four other people under the well. They called out to us and had us run out,” he said.
Rigas saw dead bodies as he barreled out of the club. In the rush to escape, he became separated from his partner, who remained unaccounted for.
Three patrons ran to the nearby home of David “Brock” Cornelius. Cornelius had gone to a different bar the night before and hadn’t returned, but he texted them his garage code so they could hideout in his house.
Police said about 12 or more people hid in a restroom.
At 2:39 AM, Eddie Justice texted sent terrifying texts to his mother:
“Call them mommy,” “Now.” “He’s coming,” “I’m gonna die.”
Justice asked her son if anyone was hurt and which bathroom he was in.
At 2:42 AM he responded, “Lots. Yes.”
The last text she received from Eddie was at 2:50 AM. She still hasn’t heard from her son.
“All I heard was gunfire after gunfire,” Brandon Wolf, who was in a restroom hiding, told the Sentinel. “Eventually, I thought you were supposed to run out of ammunition. But it just kept going and going,” he said.
People were laying in the club, dying. The shootout had turned into a hostage situation.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said that police thought the gunman had strapped explosives to some of his victims after a bomb robot sent back images of a battery part next to a body. That held paramedics up from entering the club until it was determined the part had fallen out of an exit sign or smoke detector, the mayor said.
The explosives woke up the neighboring residents of the club.
Dorian Ackerman, 28, said “I heard a woman screaming. It was really terrifying.”
The gunman started firing, hitting an officer who was saved by protective armor.
“That’s when we took him down,” the mayor said.
We are so sorry about this tragedy and all our condolences are with the friends and families of the victims.
Here’s the Truth About Whether Orlando Shooting Was Terrorism or a Hate Crime
Sources: Orlando Police Department; Orlando mayor’s office; Jeremy Williams, Watermark Online; photograph by Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
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