He might have been the first person to Google “Pulse nightclub shooting.”
When Brett Moots hit search on his phone, nothing came up. He was trying to figure out why the swarm of flashing police cars was outside his window, and why he kept hearing gunshots.
Moots, 24, and a friend visiting from Miami pedaled back to his apartment after a long day of bike racing and a night of drinking PBRs on Mills.
But when they arrived at the empty storefront under his apartment at 2:15 a.m., an Orlando police officer told them to get inside. One flight of stairs later, he flung open his curtains and saw the center of the police cluster — the bright pink P of Pulse nightclub.
Moots woke up his friends and the five of them climbed out a window onto the roof for a better look. They recorded what they saw on their phones.
They chatted as they shot the video:
“It’s not even on the news yet.”
“This is so f----d up.”
“I've never seen this many cops.”
“I've never seen this many people shot, dude.”
Their wonder turned to horror as the victims started coming out in what Moots would later learn was the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history.
From the video:
“What was your favorite subject in school?” an emergency responder asks the person she and five people are carrying.
“Oh, no,” Moots says. He says it again as two men balance a third between them. Knees bent, his red sneakers don’t touch the ground.
Pickup trucks and ambulances cart them away. The victims’ blood is still fresh on the arms of the helpers who carry a seemingly endless stream of wounded out.
For the next three hours, Moots and his friends watch even more police arrive, the column stretching all the way to the hospital up the road. The RV-like mobile command center stops right under his window.
They frantically Googled “Pulse nightclub shooting” and posted their videos on Facebook, including the Pulse page, in an effort to find out what was happening.
Then came flashbangs and another hail of gunfire as the cops moved in. A police officer spotted the crowd of young people on the roof and warned there would be “possible repercussions” if they didn’t head back indoors.
The group went to sleep as the sun rose, marking a nearly 24-hour stretch when Moots had been awake.
“When something like that happens 300 yards from you, you put sleep on the back burner,” he said.
The next morning brought media requests from Norway, France and the BBC. People magazine called his sister and uncle before it got in touch with him.
“I still haven’t responded to all the emails and Facebook messages,” he said.
With media scrutiny and FBI presence came barriers and police tape, blocking Moots from his apartment. His job as a bike courier for his business, Brick Road Courier, is sweaty work. He showers and sleeps wherever friends let him.
On Thursday, he waited on the other side of the police tape, hoping an FBI agent would let him get clothes and money to pay his electric bill. He thought he saw the power company guy turning off the electricity.
At last, a uniformed agent escorted Moots to his place, and he emerged with a backpack stuffed full of supplies. He’s not allowed to return home for five more days, he said.
In this bizarre time, Moots said he’s pleased with Orlando’s response. Restaurants he takes deliveries from have been told they can’t donate any more food.
“That is absurd to hear. Whoever heard of having too much food donated?” he said. “We’ve turned the news from one of the most tragic events in U.S. history to the response of the community. It’s great to see.”