A Marine vet, Orlando nightclub bouncer a savior for dozens during nation's deadliest shooting

"There was only one choice -- either we all stay there and we all die, or I could take the chance and get shot and save everyone else," Imran Yousuf said.

By Doug G. Ware
Video: CBS Evening News

ORLANDO, Fla., June 15 (UPI) -- When Imran Yousuf first took a job in Orlando as a member of the Pulse nightclub's security team, no way he ever expected he'd face the type of trouble that broke out during his shift Sunday.

Fortunately for many people inside the club, he was ready for it.


Yousuf says he began making his rounds at the end of Saturday night, officially Sunday morning, just after last call, when shooting started inside the club. In fact, he said he just missed coming face-to-face with the suspected gunman, Omar Seddique Mateen.

As the Orlando hot spot's music was replaced by sounds of carnage, the former U.S. Marine who'd faced infinite perils in Afghanistan leaped into action the second he heard a sound he knew all too well -- gunfire. And it was no small arms fire, either.


"Three or four shots go off and you could tell it was a high caliber," he said in an interview Wednesday with CBS News' Mark Strassmann.

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Yousuf, 24, trained for warfare in the Marines, said he responded almost without thinking, instinctively, just as the Corps taught him. Understanding that people most often react to sudden danger with extreme fear and paralysis, the six-year military veteran knew he had only moments to save lives.

"Everyone froze," he said.

Many people had crowded a staff hallway in the club during the opening moments of the massacre. Packed into the hall like sardines, they were all just inches from escape -- piled up in front of an exit to safety, which was latched.

"I'm screaming, 'Open the door! Open the door!' And no one is moving because they are scared," Yousuf said. "There was only one choice -- either we all stay there and we all die, or I could take the chance and get shot and save everyone else.

"I jumped over to open that latch and we got everyone that we can out of there."


Yousuf said more than 60 people escaped from that door.

"As soon as people found out that door was open they kept pouring out," he added.

A Hindu, Yousuf enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2010. The following year he was deployed to Afghanistan, where he served as an engineering technician in one of the hottest zones of the war on terror. After completing his service, he was discharged just last month -- his military experience still fresh on his mind when Sunday morning rolled around.

Yousuf said that's when his mentality immediately reverted to combat mode. In other words, he knew the moves he would make in those first few moments would be life-or-death decisions. Putting himself at grave risk, he utilized his military training and simultaneously fulfilled his core responsibility as a soldier and as a bouncer -- to get people out of harm's way.

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He succeeded.

Yousuf's quick thinking and selfless actions allowed dozens of people to escape with their lives -- but don't tell him about all the ones he helped save.

"I wish I could have saved more, to be honest," an emotional Yousuf admitted, his voice breaking. "There are a lot of people that are dead ... there are a lot of people that are dead."


So far, 49 dead, with many others still hospitalized, victims of the deadliest mass shooting in American history -- an ordeal that Yousuf and all the people he helped save, incidentally, will remember for a long, long time to come.

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