The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting after a hip-hop concert in South Florida was fog-of-war chaotic and frightening, with victims begging for help, driving themselves to area hospitals and one woman fearfully telling a 911 operator she didn’t think she was going to survive.
“I’ve been shot and I feel myself dying. I’m lying here dying. Oh my God, I feel myself... ma’am, please help me,” were the woman’s last haunting words to the 911 operator she managed to reach on her cellphone.
For the next four minutes the operator begged the woman to stay on the line, but the only sounds she heard were screams and groans. Finally, a man who appears to be a paramedic is heard saying, “I know, sweetheart, I know,” to a woman who said her arm hurts.
Then the line went dead.
The woman on the phone was either one of the three people killed or 20 injured during the May 30 shooting at the El Mula banquet hall in Northwest Miami-Dade. On Monday, police released almost two dozen recorded calls to 911 operators. Most of them were from victims; some, from others at the scene.
The calls are a window into the pain and confusion caused by the three shooters who, in less than 10 seconds, jumped out of a white SUV and unleashed about 100 rounds from semiautomatic rifles into a crowd that was leaving a concert just outside the private banquet hall. Video taken during the shooting shows clouds of dust as dozens of people dive for cover and a flash of gunfire from another car is seen somewhere else in the parking lot.
The shooters have not been caught and police — at least publicly — have not offered a motive.
Listened to in order, the 22 calls capture the initial confusion of the 911 operators, some of whom, after accidentally being told the shooting happened in Hialeah or Miami Gardens, transfer calls to those police agencies. As the calls continue, the gravity of the situation sets in and some operators take heroic action, keeping the injured on the line, calming them and clearly explaining how to treat the wounded.
The first call, by a man who claimed to have been shot in the back came in at 12:35 a.m. He struggled to give the operator an address and couldn’t say how many people had been struck by gunfire. After the operator asks the man if he had been shot, he responds, “Several people out here are shot. I’m shot. Ya, everybody is shot.”
The operator tells the man to place a clean cloth firmly on the wound and that police are on the way.
In another call that lasted almost 10 minutes, an operator tells a man who has been shot in the leg to get a clean, dry cloth and apply pressure. When the man says he appreciates the help, the operator urges him to stay on the line with him. The man then screams in pain and the operator tells him not to eat or drink anything or it might make him sick. The call finally ends when paramedics arrive.
When another injured caller tells the 911 operator he’s driving himself to the hospital, the operator tells him paramedics are on scene and it’s not safe for him to be driving. “Sir, are you bleeding?” she asks. The line goes dead before he answers.
And yet another call from the kitchen of an adjacent restaurant, where some people say they are hiding and watching the scene play out live on closed circuit cameras, shows just how confusing a chaotic scene can be even for those who aren’t directly involved. A man on the phone says there appear to be two people shot and that four men tried to rob them. That was not accurate.
Law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation believe the shooting was a result of some type of beef between different groups of musicians on social media. The shooting happened so quickly, people weren’t robbed. The man on the phone line likely saw people grabbing their bags or whatever they could while seeking safety.
In at least one of the calls, a 911 operator might have saved someone’s life. As soon as the call comes, even with yelling and mayhem in the background, the operator tells the caller to listen to him very carefully.
“The victim shot in the stomach, he needs a clean, dry cloth or towel. Apply it firmly to the wound,” said the operator. When the caller says at least seven people have been shot and five appear to be unconscious, the operator asks for his name and says multiple units are on the way.
“You need to try to get assistance to the people who are bleeding. The police are trying to secure the scene. We need to get those shot individuals some help until police get there,” says the operator. “I want you to get to one [person], get at least one.”
The man who called 911 then says “I’m holding pressure on him right now. Stay with me. Stay with me.” The operator then tells him, “OK, you’re doing good. Keep them calm.”
Then the caller says he sees an ambulance and tells his friend, “I got you.”
Says the operator: “Okay, rescue is there. Hang up and let them take over.”