Tampa firefighter who survived a shooting speaks about how he coped

Posted at 11:35 PM, Jun 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-06 02:15:57-04

A Tampa man remembers a painful memory, surviving a shooting. He thought about what he went through today after hearing about the mass shooting in Orlando.

"Yeah it takes me back to kind of.... 'man that happened'. I know what they're going through," Rafael Barrios, Jr., said.

Barrios is a Tampa Fire rescue firefighter now, but 18 years ago he was a college student. He worked as a concierge at the Radisson Bay Harbor Hotel on Rocky Point.

Back in 1999, Barrios went to his job to pick up a paycheck and witnessed a horrific incident. There was a shooter at the hotel and he recognized him because he also worked at the hotel.

Multiple people were killed.

"And she's like 'let me in.... let me in... he's trying to kill everybody' and that's I knew something was going on," Barrios Jr. said. "He raised his gun and he attempted to fire the weapon and he had no more bullets in the weapon."

Barrios said he remembered the moment when the shooter raised a gun toward him. Barrios ran.

"(I) ran into the... into the hotel 'cause I knew where the entrances and the exits were so I took off. I didn't even give him a chance to reload," said Barrios.

He believes that may have helped him survive. He said he knows exactly what the families of the Orlando victim's and survivors are feeling right now because he went through it.

"You go through stages and it uh, you know, at first it's overwhelming and it kind of settles in and you're like 'whoa'," Barrios said.

He said what helped him cope in the beginning was support.

"Having a strong family support system was big... I mean... you know, I went through it, but they also went through it. We kind of helped each other out," said Barrios.

He noted he always had an interest in becoming a firefighter, but said what he witnessed in 1999 may have helped push him into his current career.