Three Trinis escape mass shooting at Orlando club

PORT OF SPAIN –– Three Trinidadians managed to escape the deadly massacre that claimed the lives of 50 people at an Orlando nightclub on Sunday morning.

However, one of them is now mourning the loss of his partner.

Chris Drozd, left, and Stefan Salvatore leave flowers and pictures for victims of Sunday’s nightclub shooting at the Dr Phillips Performing Arts Centre in Orlando, Florida, Monday.
Chris Drozd, left, and Stefan Salvatore leave flowers and pictures for victims of Sunday’s nightclub shooting at the Dr Phillips Performing Arts Centre in Orlando, Florida, Monday.

Speaking with the T&T Guardian Monday, a close friend of the trio, Brandon (not real name), also a Trinidadian, said that his friends were left very traumatized over the incident.

“I spoke to one of them and he told me that he was very much shaken and very exhausted. This entire thing has upset us all,” Brandon said.

“He lost his boyfriend and I lost my best friend, who were both killed. When I got the news I collapsed,” he added.

Brandon said his compatriots were actually liming in the nightclub when ISIS sympathiser Omar Mateen launched his deadly attack. By the grace of God all three Trinis escaped unhurt, Brandon said.

He said his friends were in another part of the bar when the shooting first started. As they scampered for safety along with other patrons, however, the boyfriend was shot. They abandoned their attempt to flee and decided to hide and see if they could wait until it was safer. The boyfriend died before the attack was over, but the three Trinis received minor bruises from the human traffic as people scampered around the place seeking cover.

Brandon said he himself was supposed to go along with his friends but changed his mind.

At the time of the interview Monday, Brandon said he was struggling at work, while his friends who survived the shooting were organising to attend a candlelight vigil Tuesday.

“We are in total shock and still don’t know how to feel about what happened,” Brandon said.

The shooting occurred at an Orlando gay club Pulse, where Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53 others. He reportedly shot and injured 103 people between 2 a.m. and 5:54 a.m. Sunday before being killed by American police.

It has been reported that Mateen, 29, born in New York of Afghan parents, was from Port St Lucie, Florida. American authorities are treating it as an act of domestic terrorism. They described it as the deadliest terror attack on American soil since 9/11. They said Mateen had been on their radar as having suspected radical Islamic leanings. ISIS Monday claimed he was a “soldier of the caliphate”.

Mateen’s father told American media his son had become outraged by the sight of men kissing in public places.

Mateen, a trained private security guard, was armed with an AR-15 rifle and handgun. He’d also been interviewed by the FBI over the last two years. Authorities reported he called 911 during the incident, expressing support for ISIS and Boston bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

The ISIS-aligned Amaq news agency Monday published an ISIS message that Mateen was a “soldier of the caliphate”. Last month, ISIS urged European and US sympathisers to attack civilians on home ground if they were unable to travel to Syria and Iraq. US Ambassador John Estrada said Monday that the hateful act hits close to home for him as he used to live in Orlando.

Estrada said that he appreciated the kind words of Trinidad and Tobago’s president Anthony Carmona and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s thoughtful message of condolence, and promised that all will work with the Government and the people of Trinidad and Tobago to address this challenge together, as partners and friends.

Source: (T&T Guardian)

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