Imran Yousuf, a U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan, is being praised as a hero for opening a door in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, allowing dozens to flee as jihadist terrorist Omar Mateen opened fire on the LGBT club’s dance floor.
Yousuf, who was working as a bouncer at Pulse on Saturday night, told CBS News that he knew the bullets were “high-caliber” the second he heard the first shots. And he knew to run to a staff door that had been blockaded by club patrons looking to flee. Running to the back of the room, Yousuf never saw Mateen.
“Everyone froze. I’m here in the back and I saw people start pouring into the back hallway, and they just sardine pack everyone,” he explained. “And I’m screaming ‘Open the door! Open the door!’ And no one is moving because they are scared. There was only one choice,” he continued, “Either we all stay there and we all die, or I could take the chance, and I jumped over to open that latch a we got everyone that we can out of there.”
Yousuf estimates that “over 60, 70” people ran out through the door he opened. “I wish I could have saved more to be honest,” he adds. “There are a lot of people that are dead… there are a lot of people that are dead.”
The Marine Corps Times identifies Yousuf as a former engineer equipment electrical systems technician for the Marines who returned to civilian life in May. He served in Afghanistan in 2011 and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Korean Defense Service Medal and Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
Following the media attention surrounding Yousuf, he posted a message on Facebook urging the attention to center around those who died, not his actions that night. “I am more than grateful for my life and those that were able to stand today because of my actions but I want everyone to recognize that their shouldn’t be a label for things like this,” he said of being called a “hero.” ” 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.”
“I do appreciate the love and support and thank all of you from the bottom of my heart but please, this is not about me,” he requests.
Yousuf was not the only American service veteran on the scene that night, during the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States. 29-year-old Antonio Davon Brown was killed by gunfire at Pulse. Brown served in both Afghanistan and Iraq and served in the ROTC while at Florida A&M University. A service member who served in the ROTC with Brown wrote in a message on Twitter that she was devastated by the loss of her “battle buddy.” “CPT Antonio Brown survived Iraq and Afghanistan to die like this,” she added.
49 people died on Sunday night, all between the ages of 19 and 50 years old.