ORLANDO, Fla. - The floors were awash with blood, bodies were piled one on top of the other and somewhere in Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub, a gunman was still pulling the trigger.
Channel 9’s Shannon Butler spoke with officers who first responded to Sunday’s shooting, which left 50 people dead and dozens of others injured.
Gunshots could be heard inside the building as the officers tried to find a way to rescue the victims and get in to stop the shooter.
When they opened the door, they were engulfed in a chaotic, horrific scene, the officers said.
“As they were going in, people were running out,” they said. “The screams were so loud you couldn’t hear the person next to you.”
Many of the people running from the building had been shot and bled as they struggled to escape, the officers said.
When they looked around the room, the only light coming eerily from a spinning disco ball, they saw only carnage.
“They went in and looked around and all they could see were bodies lying all over the nightclub floor,” the officers said. “They could see blood almost covering the entire floor, and (bullet) casing after casing after casing on that floor.”
Bodies were piled one on top of the other as the officers looked for survivors.
They went through the room “going one-by-one, pulling (victims) up and checking for pulses,” the officers said. “Anyone with a pulse or some kind of movement, they were dragging out, trying to get them to safety.
“As they were doing that, they could hear shots (being) fired.”
The first officer on the scene was able to back the shooter, later identified as Omar Mateen, 27, into a bathroom, police said.
The man had taken three women hostage in the women’s bathroom, they said.
The women inside were able to text 911 and warn police that Mateen was still armed and ready to shoot, officers said.
“He has just reloaded, please be careful,” the women texted. “He has a bomb strapped to him.”
The Orlando Police Department ended up using a battering ram from the outside to smash in the wall of the club.
OPD SWAT members took the opportunity to storm the women’s bathroom and exchanged fire with Mateen, killing the man, police said.
One officer was shot in the head during the exchange, but only received minor injuries thanks to his Kevlar helmet, which “saved his life,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina said.
The FBI said agents twice investigated Mateen, but closed the cases after interviewing him. FBI agent Ronald Hopper said Sunday that Mateen had been interviewed in 2013 and 2014.
The Orlando Fire Department said 59 people were killed in the attack, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
More than 50 others were injured. Their conditions weren't immediately available.
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