The tragedy at Pulse nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning may have been a lot worse if not for one former Marine. Imran Yousuf, a 24-year-old bouncer at Pulse and an Afghanistan War veteran, helped usher up to 70 people to safety, using his military training and quick thinking to save dozens of lives. Yousuf emotionally recounted the attack when he sat down for an exclusive interview with CBS News Monday, describing the scene when the gunman entered the nightclub and began to open fire.
As Yousuf remembers, he had walked toward the staff hallway in the back of the club to begin his final rounds just after last call. That's when he heard gunshots. "The initial [round of gunshots] was about three or four. That was a shock. Three or four shots go off, and you could just tell, it was a high caliber," Yousuf recalled. People began to "sardine pack" into the staff hallway, running in any direction that was away from the shooter. Yousuf was trapped behind the swarming crowd, who didn't know that just at the end of that hallway was a door to safety. While everyone else froze, Yousuf leapt into action, jumping over the crowd to reach the door and lead over 60 people to safety.
According to a post on his Facebook page, Yousuf doesn't want any attention on his actions or former military service; just on the victims and their families. "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," Yousuf wrote in the post. "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."
Yousuf worked as an engineer equipment electrical systems technician in the Marine Corps for nearly six years, according to military officials, and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. He left the service just last month, after attaining the rank of sergeant, and ultimately ended up back in the line of fire in the place one might least expect. Although he doesn't credit his military service for his quick reaction during the shooting, it seems to have prepared him for the experience of gunfire more than his civilian counterparts at the club.
Yousuf's story of bravery and readiness is a welcome respite from the tragedy of this shooting. Without him, many more may have died, but like a true hero, Yousuf told CBS News that he was still thinking of those he could not save. "I wish I could save more, to be honest. There's a lot of people that are dead."
Image: CBS (1)