He did not come face to face with Omar Mateen. He was not among the security team that shot Mateen down after her had killed 49 people, but if it were not for quick-thinking Imran Yousuf, many more would have probably died.
Yousuf works as a bouncer at Pulse, the gay nightclub that turned into a cemetery for the innocents, and he was there on that fateful night.
When Mateen began firing from an AR-15, Yousuf was able to identify that the sound was from one of the deadliest assault rifles in the world.
Imran Yousuf speaking to the CBS news. CBS
That very moment his razor-sharp instincts took over. The instincts are thanks to Yousuf’s previous profession – a soldier with the US Marine.
Only 24, Yousuf has had a highly decorated career in the US Marine Corps underlined by his service in Afghanistan in 2011. According to The Washington Post, Yousuf worked as an engineer equipment electrical systems technician from June 2010 to May 2016 in the Marine Corps.
An aerial view of the Pulse nightclub. Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
During his service, he was decorated with the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Korean Defense Service Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
It had just been a month at Pulse for Yousuf and the horrific tragedy happened.
Police vehicles outside the Pulse nightclub on the night of the shooting. AFP/Mandel Ngan
Yousuf says that he heard the “initial three or four (shots)”.
“That was a shock. Three of four shots go off and you could tell it was a high caliber,” he told CBS News
. Yousuf recalled that the panicked people poured into the back hallway but all were frozen in fear. He said that there was a door that led to safety but people were too shocked to unlatch it.
Anxious family members after the shooting incident. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
“And I’m screaming ‘Open the door! Open the door!’ And no one is moving because they are scared,” he explained. “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 (get) out of there.”
He thinks that he save around 60-70 people that night but was sad that there were many who lost their lives.
He is since been hailed as a hero across the United States.
Though his religion is not important here, it needs to be mentioned to avoid the confusion over his name which has led many to erroneously believe that he is a Muslim.
According to India West
, Yousuf’s parents migrated from India to Guyana some four generations ago (which is sometime in the 19th
century). His paternal grandfather is a Muslim, his grandmother a Hindu. His mother, Norma, is a Hindu. His aunt, Christina, and uncle, Rafi, told India West that he is a practicing Hindu. Even CBS News mentions him as a Hindu.