Fort Myers man hailed as hero for actions during nightclub shootings

Posted at 10:29 PM, Jun 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-15 22:29:05-04

A Fort Myers man is being hailed as a hometown hero for his actions during the Orlando nightclub massacre. 19 year old Justin Pham left the club just minutes before the shootings but then ran back to help save his friends.

Justin Pham grew up in Fort Myers and moved to Orlando less than a year ago. He worked at Pulse and his knowledge of the club's layout certainly paid off. When Justin Pham said goodbye to friends and co-workers at Pulse nightclub he had no idea it would be a final farewell.

Pham recalls what happened, "Just saying bye to everyone just going around the club saying goodbye to all the staff, all the people that I know and telling them to be safe and have a good night you know." Pham snapped photos of his two best friends, Juan Rivera and Luis Conde. They were a married couple who ran a fashion design business; both were killed by the shooter.

Pham remembers them saying, "They were actually really good friends of mine, you know, I met them two years prior and ever since we've been really good friends and they consider me like their son and I've always looked up to them like parents."

At around 2am, minutes after Pham left the club, the shootings began. But when Pham found out he didn't run away, instead he ran back to the club. Moments later, police arrived but Pham says they didn't go inside the club, "The cops and the SWAT team was there but there were no moves being made and they didn't quite know the premises too well so that's where I came in."

By around 4am, almost two hours after the shootings began, Pham was frantic. He focused and began explaining to police how they could get inside the club. Pham tells us, "I gave them the layout, they asked me to draw out the club and which doors are where, you know." Pham also noted each room, exit and hallway; helping police to execute both a strategy and the killer.

Pham says, "I was of assistance to kind of help them maneuver and try to get into the club in a manner so they wouldn't hurt other victims who were still in the building." Police stormed into the club around 5am and shot the suspect dead. Pham watched helplessly.

Andy Spaulding is a local drag queen and one of Pham's Fort Myers friends. He says, "I totally would say he was a hero." Spaulding says as extraordinary as this all seems, Pham isn't one to brag about his heroic actions. Spaulding tells us, "I'm so surprised he didn't post that on Facebook, didn't do anything but, I mean, just by not advertising that he went back to do that it proves it was a selfless act and that it was just his minor little thing that he could do that had such a big impact." Pham's friends didn't even know he helped police to formulate a plan of attack. They feel his actions may have literally saved lives.