Norman Casiano, 26, was preparing to leave Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, around 2 a.m. Sunday when he heard gunshots and crawled into a bathroom, he said in an interview today on “Good Morning America.”
Casiano recalled crowding into a bathroom stall with around 30 people and watched as one of the 49 victims who would ultimately die at the hands of gunman Omar Mateen stumbled into the bathroom.
“I’ll remember this forever. He [the victim] just looked me in the eye and he’s like, ‘I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die,’” Casiano said. “At that moment, the shooter came in.”
Mateen walked into the bathroom and fired another shot at the victim on the floor, and laughed, Casiano said.
“Something I’m never, ever going to be able to remove from my head. It’s imprinted forever,” he said of the moment. “It’s just very intense how someone could be doing what he’s doing and laugh at the same time.”
Casiano was then hit by bullets on his right side when the gunman fired randomly at the bathroom stall.
“We started screaming and yelling at him like, ‘Please don’t do this. We haven’t even seen your face. We don’t know who you are. We haven’t even heard your voice yet, like please just don’t do this,’” Casiano said. “I don’t know if that made him want to do more.
“He then grabbed the gun and shot over the top of the stall and that’s when I got hit on this side,” he said.
Casiano would ultimately suffer two gunshot wounds. The survivor said he believes Mateen thought “he had already taken care of” everyone in the bathroom stall and left the bathroom, firing gunshots into the club as he walked away.
“There was two people who were blocking the door that weren’t responsive anymore so we couldn’t move the door and the people in the crowd were too scared,” Casiano said. “I myself was terrified but I guess just hearing my parents’ voice and just thinking, ‘There’s more. There’s no way this is going to be where my life ends.’”
Casiano managed to climb over the wall of the bathroom stall and landed on the floor, he said. After hearing more gunshots, he hid under a bathroom sink until he saw flashlights in the darkened club.
“I poked my head out and it’s dark so the police didn’t know what was going on and they fired,” Casiano said. “I started screaming and yelling, ‘I’m a victim. I’m a victim.’”
Casiano said he followed police officers’ instructions to run out of the bathroom with his hands up and then was “basically levitated” out of the nightclub by a group of three or four officers.
Pulse had been hosting a Latin-themed night when gunman Mateen, armed with an assault rifle and a handgun, walked into the nightclub and sprayed the venue with bullets. Forty-nine people were killed and more than 50 were injured. Mateen died in a gun battle with police.
Casiano was discharged from the hospital Monday. He is walking with the aid of a walker and said he plans to get psychological help to deal with the trauma of what he witnessed.
"There’s pain," he said of his physical injures, "but, emotionally, it’s a whole other level."