Pulse nightclub shooting survivor reflects on massacre five years later


A survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting says he is still haunted by the massacre — five years after a hate-filled gunman opened fire at the Florida LGBT venue, killing 49 people.

Leonel Melendez, 43, still carries the mental and physical scars of being shot in the head and losing his best friend during the June 12, 2016 rampage.

“I can’t hear on my left side and I use a  hearing aid… I lost some of my vision,” he told The Post on Friday.

“I was pretty much a miracle — but my recovery has been long and hard.”

The Louisiana native was left in a coma, and given grim odds of survival during his six week hospitalization following the shooting.

At one point, Melendez said a doctor told him “we can not explain why you are still alive,” and called him a “walking miracle.”

“I’ve been through 10 surgeries… [Including a knee replacement] I had to go through physical therapy so bad I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” he recalled. 

Leonel Melendez said he had to re-learn how to read and write after he was shot in the head during the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Leonel Melendez said he had to relearn how to read and write after he was shot in the head.
AP

Melendez said he lost four pints of blood and suffered multiple strokes after a bullet pierced his skull and destroyed part of his brain.

“I had to learn how to write and read again,” he said. “It’s difficult. I forget things and my short term memory is completely lost. All that is very hard for me now. My brain is not 100 percent.”

The atrocities of five years ago sparked gun control pushes in Washington and in statehouses across the country, but ultimately the tragedy led to few reforms.

On the anniversary of the Pride Week slaughter, Melendez issued an urgent call for lawmakers to take more action to prevent mass shootings.

“[Lawmakers] should make it so that not just anybody can own a gun. Gun control needs to be more strict,” he pleaded.

“You should have to pass a background test and take a psychological test before you  can own a gun. There has to be a better way, it should be more controlled. If there was more restriction on owning a gun this would have never happened.”

Melendez is urging lawmakers to take more action to prevent mass shootings as five years have passed since the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Melendez is urging politicians to take more action to prevent mass shootings amid the five-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
AP

President Biden – an architect of the expired 1994 assault weapons ban — has recently vowed to push Congress to take meaningful action on the issue.

Shooter Omar Mateen, a closeted gay man who pledged loyalty to ISIS, according to authorities, was killed in a shootout with police.

Melendez said that after months of therapy and dealing with survivor’s guilt, he eventually “came to terms with the fact that [the shooter] was a person who is not right in the head.”

“There are days I wake up and cry and shake it off and say, you know what, you’re alive  — you’re not dead like your best friend. I shake it off and cry it out. I just say god help me.”

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