Police ‘risked their lives’ to save clubgoers: Orlando chief

The chief of the Orlando Police Department described the heroic efforts his officers undertook to save patrons at the Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning. A lone gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others before he was shot dead by police.

While visiting the memorial in downtown Orlando, Chief of Police John W. Mina said several officers “risked their lives” by dragging wounded clubgoers out of the building despite not knowing if the gunman had planted a bomb in the popular gay nightclub.

“Our officers risked their lives for [the victims’] safety,” Mina told ABC News. “They just wanted to get those people out of there.”

The officers “stood toe-to-toe with a mass murderer,” he noted and commended the “many heroes from the night” for performing” “heroically” and “courageously.”

Mina said first responders were “upset” that the gunman targeted the LGBT community because it is filled with “loving people.”

Although officers were trained after 9/11 to deal with similar scenes of destruction, Mina said “no one can ever prepare themselves” for the carnage they witnessed.

“Something like this affects everyone differently,” he said. “No one can ever prepare themselves for this horrific scene.”

The officers were given a stress management briefing, speaking to counselors and recanting the events with peers.

“It’s very, very important to get that out and not keep it bottled up inside,” Mina said.

After an administrative review, SWAT police officers will return to work next week but will receive additional counseling if needed. Mina said the officers are “very eager” to get back to work.

“They want to protect this community, like they always have,” Mina said. “They want to get back on those streets.”

The community’s “outpouring of love” has not only been directed toward the victims and their families. Mina said residents know officers “have a tough job to do.”

The FBI is investigating gunman Omar Mateen and the circumstances leading up to the attack but Orlando police will continue to monitor the scene of the shooting, Mina said, adding that his “top priority” is making sure the people of Orlando feel safe.

ABC News’ Marci Gonzalez contributed to this report.

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