Eatonville Police Officer Omar Delgado helped pull victims from Pulse nightclub
"It was a feeling that you just can't describe ... knowing that you helped save someone"
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It was like any other Saturday night, and Officer Omar Delgado was on duty for the Eatonville (Florida) Police Department. Suddenly, a tone came in from his dispatcher: Nearby Orlando police had issued a signal 43, an urgent alert that calls everyone from surrounding agencies into action.
Without hesitation, Delgado sped to the scene.
“Usually, by the time I get to I-4 from here, they usually cancel it because they have all the people that they need. But it was weird that day that they didn’t cancel it. So I jumped on I-4 and still didn’t cancel it. … By the time I got almost to Orange, they came back on the radio: ‘active shooter, still shooting.’ And I was just a couple blocks down.”
Delgado was sure that when he arrived at Pulse nightclub, the situation would be over. But that was not the case. An Orlando Police Department officer told him “active shooter, and he’s still inside the building” as gunshots continued to ring out early Sunday.
Brothers in blue
In the midst of gunfire, Delgado followed his brothers in blue to save the wounded.
The nine-year officer described the scene as “chaos … people running, screaming, crying, yelling.”
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Through the darkness and disco lights, Delgado began dragging out survivors.
“I had my flashlight. We kind of looked around, and somebody yelled out, ‘This person’s moving,’ so I remember a couple of officers behind me ran up and grabbed somebody. Another person I saw was moving, so I went and another officer grabbed him. … We pulled like three or four people out. With all the chaos, couldn’t see faces, and the few faces that I saw were just covered in blood, so I really couldn’t tell who it was.”
Extensive training is often involved to become a police officer, but it’s hard to train for this kind of tragedy. Forty-nine people lost their lives that night, and more than 50 others were wounded. Delgado recalled sharing with a friend: “You know what, people say they’re trained. You are trained, you can see one or two bodies, but when you see that many, it’s a massacre.”
One of the people Delgado pulled out was Angel Colon, who wanted to meet the officer who saved his life. That reunion happened Thursday, in Colon’s hospital room, with his family by his side.
“He just came in, and I had a smile on my face, it was just happiness,” Colon said. “I was just so happy. I’ve wanted to see you, the man that took me out of that horrible place that was all just filled with craziness. I was happy, just so happy.”
As a father and a husband, Delgado gets emotional when talking about the reunion.
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“Oh, my God, it was amazing. It was a feeling that you just can’t describe, you can’t put in words, knowing that you helped save someone. People try to save people all the time, but in that certain situation, it was unreal. He grabbed me and hugged me, he hugged me like four or five times and just thanked me. I can’t even tell you how many times he thanked me. I told him, ‘I’m glad you’re alive. I’m glad we were able to help you get back to your family.’ “
As the investigation continues, Delgado and other first responders have been relieved of their duties related to the shooting.
Delgado said he feels that “now we have to keep moving forward. Everyone’s saying ‘Orlando Strong.’ We are strong, and we’re gonna continue being strong.”