Gulfport man at the Pulse: 'My main thought was hide'

Gulfport man at the Pulse: 'My main thought was hide'
Gulfport native Joshua McGill, 26, managed to escape from an Orlando nightclub during what authorities are calling the worst shooting in U.S. history. (Photo source: Facebook)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Like so many others, Josh McGill spent Saturday night at the Pulse.

"Everyone was having fun," the Gulfport native said. "Typical night. They always have last call at 1:45 a.m."

McGill and his two roommates stood near a door leading to an outdoor patio. It all seemed so normal.

And then, "We heard the three initial shots," the nursing student remembered. "You just hear gunshot after gunshot after gunshot and that was very scary. And my main thought was hide."

The 26-year-old and his roommates darted out the patio door. In a Skype interview with WLOX News Now, the Gulfport man tried to find the right words to explain the chaos. He compared it to an ant hill someone just stepped on. People scattered, running in all sorts of directions, unsure what was happening behind them.

"We heard people say run. We saw people starting to flee," he remembered.  "We went back outside, hopped the fence. I jumped and ducked behind a car.  I hid for a good two to five minutes, which felt like forever."

While behind that car, McGill noticed a dazed looking man wobbling through the parking lot. That man had gunshot wounds in each arm and in his back. McGill ripped off his shirt and tightly wrapped it around one arm. He used the victim's shirt to act as a tourniquet on his other arm.

"It's kind of like your adrenaline kicks in," McGill said. "I didn't want someone to die on my watch."

McGill learned the victim's name was Rodney, a 27-year-old from Jacksonville.

"We kind of bobbed and weaved through the parking lot to get to the perimeter," the Gulfport nursing student said.

Police set up that perimeter. When rescue personnel saw the two men, they rushed them to a squad car. Once in the car, McGill was told to tightly clench Rodney against his body, hoping that would prevent blood loss from the back wounds. McGill had one other responsibility. Keep Rodney conscious.

"I asked him questions," he said. "I told him it was going to be okay. I just wanted to help him and hoped he would stay alive."

At least 50 people died from the hail bullets inside the Orlando bar. More than four dozen others got rushed to a nearby hospital. Rodney was one of the wounded. Orlando Regional Medical Center was just blocks from the mass casualty scene.

During that short ride, McGill remembered saying a prayer with Rodney, knowing the time was right for a higher power to intervene.

McGill posted his experience on Facebook. A frantic family member looking for someone named Rodney contacted the Gulfport man. It turned out the man McGill saved was Rodney Sumpter, that person's relative. And at last check, the shooting victim was alive.

"I'm scared, but during that process the only thing I was worried about was keeping him safe."

Because of that Facebook post, national media contacted McGill. He was one of the first witnesses to go on TV and share his ordeal at the Pulse. In each interview, he appeared calm and collected. In the WLOX News Now Skype interview, he admitted that wasn't the case a few hours earlier.

"I did have my little breakdown after Rodney was taken away," said McGill.

McGill went to the Pulse with two roommates. They all survived the mass shooting. And for that, he feels blessed.

As for his act of heroism, he simply said, "I wanted to make sure I could do the best that I could do."

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