The death toll at the Pulse nightclub shooting could have been far higher than 49 if one man had not acted with presence of mind. Imran Yousef, a 24-year-old former Marine Corps sergeant, risked his life to save more than 60 people that night, reported CBS News.
Yousef, who has served in Afghanistan, was employed as a bouncer at the club. On the night of the shooting, he was doing his rounds and had reached the back when he heard the shots go off. Having served in the Marines, he immediately recognised the sounds as gunfire from a high caliber weapon, even as others who heard it initially thought it was fireworks.
He told CBS News that he was at the back of the club and he saw people pouring into the back staff hallway. There was an exit door and he yelled at them to open it but they were too shocked to do so. I am here in the back and I saw people pouring in the back staff hallway.
“There was only one choice: either we all stay there and we all die or I could take the chance of getting shot and save everyone else. And I jumped over and opened the latch and we got everyone we could out of there,” he said in the interview.
Despite that, he broke down when talking to CBS News. “I wish I could have saved more, to be honest. There’s a lot of people that are dead.”
According to Marine Corps Times, Yousef served as in the Marine Corps from June 2010 to May 2016 and he deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. He has also received several medals for his service.
The publication also quoted Yousef as writing on his Facebook page (in a post that has since been deleted) that he just “reacted by instinct” and he was not a hero. In fact, he lost quite a few friends that night and he firmly believes that people should focus on the victims’ families and friends instead of him.
He later deleted the posts and put up a new one on Wednesday, in which he wrote that the CBS News interview has given him closure. “I believe I am finally able to move on from this and get focused back on my goals and my life.”
Yousef’s brother Ameer told The Daily Gazzette that those goals include being a certified personal trainer. Yousef had quit the Marine two months ago and joined a Pulse a month back. He was also regularly training at National Personal Training Institute in Orlando. In fact, Ameer and other family members were going to be at the Pulse that night but changed their plans at the last minute.
“My aunt all of a sudden just said, ‘No, guys, let’s not go,’ and I don’t know why but we all listened to her,” Ameer was quoted as saying.
It was only when Yousef called them later and told them about what had happened that they realised how fortunate all of them had been.