Patience Carter, 20, one of the survivors of the mass shooting Sunday morning at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., said that the shooter, Omar Mateen, 29, wanted to spare black lives from his violent rampage, CBS News reports.
Carter had fled to the bathroom to seek shelter with other club patrons when the gunman entered and reportedly asked, "Are there any black people in here?"
Carter said that she was too terrified to reply, but a black man in a bathroom stall answered, "Yes, there are about six or seven of us."
Mateen then added, "You know, I don't have a problem with black people. This is about my country. You guys suffered enough."
Mateen called 911 from the bathroom, telling the dispatcher that he was carrying out his attack in the name of ISIS because he wanted the United States to stop bombing his country, according to Carter. The gunman was born in New York, but his parents are from Afghanistan.
According to a 2015 Brown University report, “Costs of War”:
Civilians have been killed by crossfire, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), assassinations, bombings, and night raids into houses of suspected insurgents. Even in the absence of fighting, unexploded ordnance from previous wars and United States cluster bombs continue to kill.
… About 92,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan war since 2001. More than 26,000 of those killed have been civilians. Nearly 100,000 people have been injured since 2001.
Despite Mateen's claim that he did not want to make black people "suffer," he shot and killed at least three African Americans in Pulse: singer Shane Tomlinson, 33, and accountant Eddie Justice, 30, both of Orlando; and Akyra Murray, 18 (reports initially listed Murray's age as 17). Murray was a recent high school graduate and star basketball player who traveled from Philadelphia with her cousin Tiara Parker, 20, and Carter for vacation.
The number of Afro-Latinx club patrons in Pulse at the time of the massacre is unknown, but according to Daniel Gilroy, 44, one of Mateen's former co-workers, Mateen had no love for minority and marginalized groups. From the Los Angeles Times:
“I complained multiple times that he was dangerous, that he didn't like blacks, women, lesbians and Jews,” Gilroy told The Times on Sunday.
Mateen threatened violence in front of him, Gilroy said. Once when Mateen saw an African American man driving past, he said he wished he could kill all black people, using a racial slur, Gilroy recalled.
"You meet bigots," Gilroy said, "But he was above and beyond. He was always angry, sweating, just angry at the world.”
There were 49 fatalities in the nightclub massacre; an additional 53 people were wounded.
Carter, who made it to the exit with Murray before the shooting started, says she feels "guilty for being alive." She insisted that she and Murray re-enter Pulse to find Parker. The pair did find Parker, who survived, but became trapped inside the club. Murray did not make it out alive.
In the clip below, Carter recites a poem she wrote about the mass shooting and recounts the gunman's final moments.