Shooting survivor says his best friend shielded him from gunfire
Best friends Demetrice Naulings and Eddie Justice often walked together hand in hand, as if they were a couple, although Naulings says he always thought of Justice as being more like his kid brother.
The last time they clasped hands was shortly after 2 a.m. on Sunday (June 12) inside Pulse, the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where the worst mass shooting in U.S. history was beginning to unfold.
“My best friend, saved me. The whole time I’m thinking it’s my fault, but really he’s always been my angel and he was still protecting me. He was taller than me, so when the bullet hit him, he was protecting me, he was covering me,” Naulings told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday (June 14).
Justice, 30, begged Naulings, 34, to take care of him as the two fled a bathroom in the nightclub amid a hail of bullets fired by a lone gunman, Omar Mateen, in what became a three-hour rampage ending with the suspect slain by police. But somewhere in the melee, the best friends lost their grip on each other.
“I’m freaking out…I need to watch to see if they (Justice and other friends) are going to come behind me out of that same door.”
Standing outside of Pulse, Naulings said saw “nothing but death and people getting shot.”
Nearly 24 hours after he escaped the club, Naulings learned that Justice was not among the shooting survivors.
Justice texted his mother and told her that he could hear the gunman coming, Naulings said.
Two days after the shooting left 49 of Mateen’s victims dead and 53 others wounded, many survivors have more questions than answers.
He wishes police could have interviewed Mateen to find out what drove him to carry out such a deadly attack.
While the attack targeted patrons of a popular gay nightclub, Naulings said the massacre was a crime against people.
“This is not a gay thing,” Naulings said. “This is all about us being a unit, as one because this could happen to you and your kids, to you and your family. My friend didn’t die as a gay man, he died as just a man.”
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