Ray Rivera went from spinning records to saving lives in an instant.
Rivera, a.k.a. DJ Infinite, was the performer at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando where Omar Mateen shot more than 100 people, killing 49, in the worst mass shooting in American history. Just before 2 a.m. Riviera started playing reggae music to mellow out the crowd when he heard the first gunshots ring out.
“I thought it was someone lighting firecrackers,” Rivera told The Daily Beast. “So I turned the music down, and heard some more. I turned the music off.”
Mateen had opened fire with an AR-15-style assault rifle.
Rivera was manning the patio DJ booth for hours at the self-described “hottest gay bar in Orlando” for Latin night.
“It was a normal night, people were having a great time, people were dancing,” he said. Then the screaming and chaos began, as hundreds of victims and bystanders flooded into the patio area.
“I ducked behind my DJ booth,” Rivera said. “People were running from the main room, out to the patio, which leads into the parking lot… It emptied out quickly. Basically everybody was just panicking… I looked inside and saw people were laying on the floor in the main club.”
Rivera said that after the shooting began, two clubgoers, “a guy and a girl,” joined him behind his booth to take cover. Shortly after the man made a break for the parking lot, Rivera says he helped the woman escape.
“Then the officers were there, guns drawn—they showed up there within a minute or so,” he said. “Cars were coming out of everywhere.”
Mateen reportedly took hostage several patrons hiding in a bathroom. A SWAT unit entered the club at approximately 6 a.m. and killed Mateen in what has been described by law enforcement as a sustained gun battle. Rivera was later taken to the local police station to give a statement, along with several other witnesses.
Rivera is still trying to make sense of America’s latest mass shooting.
“It’s just one of those things, man,” he said. “I never imagined I would be at anything like this. It was so terrible.”
As of Sunday afternoon, some of his friends who were at Pulse last night are still unaccounted for. He says that he and his wife are monitoring social media, waiting for them to update their pages and show signs of life.
“We are still looking for friends,” Rivera said.