Orlando shooting: Former US marine may have saved 70 people on the night of attack

BOUNCER IMRAN YOUSUF (above), on how everyone froze in fear near a door instead of unlatching it and escaping.
BOUNCER IMRAN YOUSUF (above), on how everyone froze in fear near a door instead of unlatching it and escaping.

ORLANDO • A former United States Marine who was a bouncer at the Pulse nightclub last Saturday night could have saved as many as 70 people after reacting quickly to the sound of gunshots by herding people out a door, media reports say.

Mr Imran Yousuf, 24, who left the Marine Corps just two months earlier, identified the sound of "high calibre" gunfire in the gay club due to his training and remained clear- headed as people were shot and killed around him.

Omar Mateen, a US-born son of an Afghan immigrant, killed 49 people in the rampage using an assault rifle early on Sunday. Another 53 people were injured.

Mr Yousuf told CBS News that he knew something was horribly wrong when he heard the familiar crack of gunfire.

"Three or four shots go off and you could tell it was a high calibre. Everyone froze," he told the news channel.

ONLY ONE CHOICE: SAVE LIVES

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 can out of there.

BOUNCER IMRAN YOUSUF, on how everyone froze in fear near a door instead of unlatching it and escaping.

Knowing there was a door at a corner where many people were huddled in, he moved to unlatch the door when others were not moving to open it. "I'm screaming, 'Open the door! Open the door!' And no one is moving because they are scared," he said.

"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 can out of there," said the former sergeant.

He told CBS that some 60 or 70 people ran out. "As soon as people found that door was open they kept pouring out and after that we just ran," he said.

Mr Yousuf served in the Marine Corps from June 2010 to May 2016 as an engineer equipment electrical systems technician, according to The Washington Post, which obtained his service records. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and most recently assigned to the 3rd Marine Logistics Group, the newspaper said.

His awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Korean Defence Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

His actions won wide praise on the Internet.

"Thank you, Yousuf, for saving as many people as you possibly could. You did a GREAT job. You are an American hero," wrote one poster on the CBS website.

Mr Yousuf wrote in a Facebook post on Monday describing how he only "reacted by instinct", and asking that people focus their efforts on the victims and their families.

"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 wrote.

He told the news channel, with tears spilling out of his eyes: "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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2016, with the headline 'Former US Marine may have saved 70'. Print Edition | Subscribe