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In his own words: Pulse nightclub shooting survivor Angel Santiago

Angel Santiago, 32 of Philadelphia, sits in a hospital bed surrounded by his family, (from left) Ashley Santiago, Samuel Santiago, Maria Diaz and Gloria Santiago, during a press conference with testimonials from survivors, Angel Santiago, 32, and Patience Carter, 20, both from Philadelphia, on Tuesday,  at the Florida Hospital Orlando. [ZACK WITTMAN  |  Times]

Angel Santiago, 32 of Philadelphia, sits in a hospital bed surrounded by his family, (from left) Ashley Santiago, Samuel Santiago, Maria Diaz and Gloria Santiago, during a press conference with testimonials from survivors, Angel Santiago, 32, and Patience Carter, 20, both from Philadelphia, on Tuesday, at the Florida Hospital Orlando. [ZACK WITTMAN | Times]

At a news conference Tuesday at Florida Hospital Orlando, 22-year-old Angel Santiago described the terror of waiting to get shot while he was trapped in the bathroom at Pulse nightclub with the gunman.

This is his account, in his own words:

I arrived at Pulse nightclub probably around 12:30 and I was there with two other friends and I was just having a good time, dancing, talking, and toward the end of the night we went toward the rear bar, which had a Latin bartender and ...

That's where I ended up my friends. Right around 2 o'clock, right when they stopped serving alcohol, that's when we heard the first round of shots go off. So immediately my friend and I fell to the ground to take cover.

My initial thoughts were, maybe there was an altercation, it's personal, so I'll stay to the ground until it's over but then we heard additional (inaudible). So at that point, my friend and I ran to the bathroom in the rear.

The bathroom on the left had a large handicapped stall so we ran in there. When we arrived, there were already people hiding in the handicapped stall. So we continued to hear gunfire. We dropped to the ground in the handicapped stall. I hid as best as I could underneath the sink, there wasn't much protection there but it was better than nothing.

My friend Jeff was in front of me, there were a couple of other people surrounding us but I believe overall there were about maybe 15 to 20 people in that handicapped stall, just hiding. So we just continued to hear gunfire and I just remember thinking, when is it going to stop because if it was personal usually that shouldn't last too long. So I just kept hearing gunfire over and over and over again. It kept getting louder, closer. And I could actually start to smell, I guess it was gunpowder, it kind of smells like firecrackers going off.

So everyone in the stall, we're all trying to just be as quiet as possible because we didn't want to draw his attention but the gunfire kept getting closer and closer, and at one point it was just, 'Shh, be quiet, be quiet.' And that's when bullets start going through the stall wall towards us.

So I can't recall exactly how many bullets but it sounded he (inaudible). I was hit in my foot, left foot, my right knee. I thought I was shot a third time but it ended up being debris. My friend who was with me was hit as well and his injuries were worse than mine but overall there was just a lot of blood, a lot of people were hit, and even some fatalities, which were apparent almost immediately.

So everyone's just panicking. After the shots stop, the gunman went into the bathroom that was adjacent to us and we hear more gunfire and more people screaming. At that point we are just trying to be as quiet as possible because we didn't want to attract him back to us so we just lay down, tried to assess the situation. I dialed 911 a few times, tried explaining to the operator what was occurring, what was going on while continuing to hear gunfire.

IN HER OWN WORDS: Survivor Patience Carter speaks out

Some time went by and kind of quiet down a little bit. I finally heard police arrive, I heard police yelling, "Drop it, hands up," but I don't know what was going on. So eventually it kind of quieted down some more. I was bleeding, my friend Jeff was bleeding a lot. I was on the ground in a pool of blood, I wasn't sure whose it was but I felt like it was my friend Jeff's because he was hit around here (gestures to collarbone) and I could see a bullet hole right here. He was sweating, overall really weak and in bad condition. My thought process was you know, do we stay here and wait for the shooter to come back or do we try to leave.

So I tried maneuvering so I could exit underneath the stall but then people were like, "No, stay here, don't go anywhere, you'll get killed." So I stay there for a little while longer but everything just kind of quieted down and all I heard was police chatter on the radio in the distance. I didn't hear any more gunfire. So at that point I decided to drag myself underneath the stall to exit the handicapped stall where we were. Once I got out of there I saw that there was a body in front of the door on the opposite side. I didn't see anyone else around. I couldn't walk, so I had to drag myself out of the bathroom toward the bar area where I was initially and until I actually saw the face of a police officer. So when I finally saw an officer I ... started waving so he could see me and at that point the officers instructed me to ... with my hands, drop whatever I had in my hands, and instructed me to drag myself toward them. I yelled and said there are people shot, people killed in the bathroom who need your help but they weren't coming near me so they told me to drag myself toward them. So once I got close enough a couple of SWAT officers grabbed me by the arms and dragged me outside. And at that point I was just telling them, you know, my friend was shot, there are several people there who I believe are dead and there are at least 15 people in there who need your help so go in there. And at that point they asked me instructions on exactly where the bathroom was and after I told them they put me in an ambulance and brought me here.

IN HIS OWN WORDS: Survivor Angel Colon speaks out

So after that I didn't really know what else occurred, I never saw the face of the shooter. I didn't know if it was a male or a female, I didn't even hear the shooter speak. So it wasn't until I actually saw it on the television what it actually looked like.

I didn't know what (inaudible) did about my friend Jeff, about the third friend we were with. It was just a matter of getting to the hospital, and I was grateful to the staff because by the time I got to the hospital they said my blood pressure was very low. I was dizzy, cold. They gave me two units of blood to kind of stabilize me. After that, just been here.

So thankfully I heard eventually that my friend Jeff, he was in critical condition but as of last night he's stable, and our third friend miraculously she didn't suffer any injuries so she's doing really well. I'm just grateful to be alive because after seeing what occurred, I don't even know how I'm alive today.

In his own words: Pulse nightclub shooting survivor Angel Santiago 06/14/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 14, 2016 7:18pm]
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