Orlando attack: Survivor reveals how he 'played dead' among bodies to escape nightclub killer

The 26-year-old was one of up to 300 people in the club when the killer struck in the early hours of Sunday

Andrew Buncombe
Monday 13 June 2016 18:45
Orlando shooting survivor says those who made it out alive have to speak out

Marcus Godden had managed to sink two Blue Long Island Iced Tea cocktails before everything around him turned to chaos.

His back was to the door of the Pulse club and so he did not see the gunman immediately. But he could hear the gunshots and he could see the people falling around him.

“I lay on the ground. I could hear shots. I played dead,” he said on Monday afternoon, standing just a few hundred yards from the nightclub, still surrounded by police tape and now the focus of an investigation into the worst mass shooting in modern US history. He said he ran out, leapt a gate and kept going. He advised others around him to do the same.

The 26-year-old, who works in an outlet of Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants, was one a number of people on Monday who were recounting stories of survival and death, hope and horror, of bad luck and good fate. He had lain on the floor among fellow clubbers, some of them apparently dead, some of them trying to pretend to be so, like himself. One close friend was killed in the carnage, and twenty others he knew a little also lost their lives.

Mr Godden also recalled how he saw the face of the gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, as he set about his deadly slaughter, firstly with a handgun, then with a semi-automatic rifle. On Monday, the FBI director James Comey said the Mateen had expressed support not only for Isis but for Hezbollah and Al-Nusra.

Mr Godden said he was struggling to make sense of what happened. Everywhere he looked - on social media, on television, in the streets outside the club he had visited almost weekly - he was confronted by the horror of what played out in the early hours of Sunday morning. He said he felt as though he too should be dead, or at least wounded.

"I can still see the gunshots, my ears are still ringing, I can hear the shooting," he said.

Marcus Godden said he was a regular at the club (Andrew Buncombe )

Mr Godden said the Pulse was a friendly welcoming place, the sort of establishment were people could go and relax and feel they were surrounded by supportive people. He said he went there often. “It was a place of love. You felt so welcome. You feel you have no cares,” he said.

And yet within moments some time around around 2am, all of that changed when Mateen entered the club in central Orlando, exchanged gunfire with a off duty police officer who was on guard, and then ran back in and opened fire.

Officials have revealed that Mateen, who had was likely inspired by Islamist groups and who was questioned by the FBI when they investigated him for ten months starting in May 2013, bought the weapons he used in the last few days. He was able to do so legally.

As officials in Orlando began to release some of the names of those who were killed, Mr Comey told reporters on Monday that there were “strong indications” Mateen had been radicalised in part through the internet but said federal authorities were still working to determine his exact motives.

Mr Godden, who was wearing a red Hollister shirt, said the gunman used the weapons to deadly effect. He left 49 people dead, before he was shot and killed by police. At least 40 other clubbers were injured, some grievously.

“It was horrific. I could smell gunpowder, I could see thing being blasted. It was absolute chaos,” he said. “I was standing by the bar. My back was turned at the time.”

Christopher Hansen said he was also getting a drink at the bar when he heard gunshots inside the nightclub.

“You could still hear the gunshots,” Mr Hansen told ABC News.

“It was like the length of a song. It just kept going, ‘Pow, pow, pow, pow’. Just non-stop, continuous, and then just sort of brief silence and then it went all over again. So, I don’t know how many rounds were shot. It was just like, shot, after shot, after shot.”

He added: “Once I saw the bodies dropping, the people screaming...you could see the blood everywhere. The person next to me was shot and I dropped down so that I could crawl out...I wasn’t [thinking]. It was like my mind was saying, ‘Get out. Get out’.”

Mr Godden said he had little time for the politicians, especially Donald Trump, who had been weighing in on the issue. Yet he was thankful to Barack Obama for furthering the cause of LGBT rights.

“I’m gay and I’m proud,” he said. “For me to stand here as homosexual, I thank God.”

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