OTR Interviews

Shooting survivor's heartbreak: I wouldn't wish this on anybody

Brett Rigas was at Pulse nightclub when a flurry shots suddenly rang out. After not knowing what became of his boyfriend, he learned that he was among those killed in the terror attack, Rigas tells 'On the Record' his story


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 13, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: This is a "Fox News" alert. The evil terrorist who slaughtered 49 innocent people visited the gay nightclub, The Pulse, a dozen times.

Regulars at "The Pulse" nightclub in Orlando telling the "Orlando Sentinel" killer Omar Mateen was spotted at the club multiple times.

And tonight we are learning brand new information about what the 29-year- old terrorist did in the days leading up to his massacre.

But ON THE RECORD begins here in Orlando with the heart breaking story from Brett Rigas.

Bret was inside the club and was grazed with a bullet. And just a short time ago, he learned that his partner who had been standing right next to him did not survive the terror attack.


BRETT RIGAS, SHOOTING SURVIVER: Got there about 12:30 or so. We had a few drinks. And I had just closed my bar tab on the outside bar. And as we were walking out, the promoter, Nem, a good friend of mine, he signalled me over and offered to get me a drink.

And we were standing at the bar, at the corner of the bar. And there were four of us around the loop of the bar. And we just heard some shots or what sounded like shots, but we thought it was part of the music. We didn't know.

The guy next to us said it was just the music. And then I just started hearing glass breaking and we knew that it wasn't part of the music. So we all hit the floor. And I crawled around the bar and underneath the ice well, where there was two or three other people there. And just laid there with one of the other bartender friends of mine.

And she was hysterical, and I was trying to calm her down. She was trying to calm me down. And the shots were right above our head. Like all the bottles in the bar that were on the shelf right a foot away from us were just shattering and breaking. And glass was everywhere. Liquor was everywhere.

And then I could hear a radio, and I wasn't sure if it was the officer that was there, or if the guy who was communicating with another person because I don't know if there was somebody else there or not. I heard different things. But I only know of one person.

And it seemed like hours had gone by when those people got there. Until the police got there. But it probably was only 15 minutes or not even 15 minutes.

VAN SUSTEREN: How did you get out of there?

RIGAS: It was on the corner of the entrance to where everybody -- the staff goes into the bar. And I just crawled on the floor into the -- underneath the ice well that was there.

VAN SUSTEREN: Was anybody -- Frank, he was hit. Did you know that?

RIGAS: I didn't know. And I didn't know where he was. We were standing next to each other, but I don't know where he was when I crawled on the other side. There were so many people on that corner right there that I didn't know where anybody was.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you never saw him get hit?

RIGAS: No. The music was going and then all of the sudden it stopped. There was no music. All you could hear was sprays of bullets just over and over again.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you ever see the killer?


VAN SUSTEREN: Did you ever see the flash from any light near the weapon or anything?

RIGAS: We were under the bar and we just stayed there and didn't move until everything was over.

VAN SUSTEREN: Were people screaming? How was it?

RIGAS: Yes. People screaming. People crying. Like you could hear people everywhere.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did the killer say anything? Was he yelling anything?

RIGAS: I didn't hear anything. I didn't hear -- all I could hear and even last night when I was trying to go to sleep, all I could hear were gunshots.



VAN SUSTEREN: So, when you got outside, what did you do?

RIGAS: There was a guy that was hit really bad. There was four of us. And underneath the bar area four or five of us. And there was a guy hit really bad. And the police had us hold our hands up. If we were still alive, to hold our hands up. So we held our hands up --

VAN SUSTEREN: This was inside the bar.


VAN SUSTEREN: So the police came in while you were inside the bar.

RIGAS: Yes. And they told us if we were alive to hold our hands up. So we held our hands up. And then within seconds they said get back down because the guy was still inside. So we got back down again and then they told us to put our hands up again, and we went out of the bar.

And we -- they told us to just keep running. So when we got outside through like the glass that was broken in the front and the front door area, there was a guy on the ground there. I don't remember if he was inside or on the ground there, but the police asked us to help carry him. So there was four of us that carried him out and his arm, he was shot in the arm pretty bad.

And the bartender that was next to me was shot in the leg. So when we got to like a safe area behind the Dunkin' Donuts, the cops asked us to take off our shirts and everything and tie it around the wound of the people that we are with.

VAN SUSTEREN: And so the police were actually inside with the killer when he was actually shooting.

RIGAS: Yes. There was -- when I was out, going off the dance floor area to like run out of that exit, there was a cop with like a machine gun standing there on the inside of the bar?

VAN SUSTEREN: And nobody knew where the killer was?


VAN SUSTEREN: Was it too dark to sort of identify where the killer was? Or what do you think about --

RIGAS: I couldn't even told you it was a cop. Like it was dark in there at that time. Like, if I wouldn't have put two and two together that it was the police and that it was safe to get out of there, I wouldn't have been able to know who it was standing there. It was dark in there.

VAN SUSTEREN: And were you looking for Frank at that point?

RIGAS: Yes, I looked for him everywhere out there. And he wasn't there. And I asked if he was in another staging area. They said there was another staging area, but they didn't know where it was or who was there, or anything.

VAN SUSTEREN: How far away was he from you when you were in the bar before the shooting started?

RIGAS: He was right next to me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Closer than you and I are?

RIGAS: Closer than we are.

VAN SUSTEREN: And you never saw him get shot?

RIGAS: No. And when I walked out, I looked for him. There was so many people on the floor like face down and blood everywhere. I just wanted to get out of there. And I looked for him. I didn't see him. And I was just hoping that he got out like I knew what he was wearing and I looked for his shirt, and I couldn't see anybody's face. Everybody was face down on the ground that was there.

I looked for him at the police department because they took a bus before us. So when we got to the police department, I looked for him there, and he wasn't there. And from there I went to the hospital and they didn't want to give me any information at the hospital. It was hard to get into the hospital. So I left my name and my phone number. And they put this hotline number that I called 500 times yesterday. And it was more of an answering service than it was anything.

I still haven't heard anything back from anybody there. I wouldn't know that anything happened if it wasn't for his family that drove here from Louisiana and went to the crisis center today.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who notified the family?

RIGAS: I'm guessing the -- I'm guessing the police.

VAN SUSTEREN: But I mean that they drove here?

RIGAS: I contacted them.

VAN SUSTEREN: And said I can't find him?

RIGAS: Well, I contacted his best friend. I didn't have his mom's phone number. And then she got in touch with his sister which got in touch with me. And they immediately -- they left within 30 minutes and were driving here.

VAN SUSTEREN: And so then, so all day Sunday, you were looking for him. No luck.

RIGAS: We went to the crisis center. And they named off a list of names that were at two hospitals and he wasn't on either one of those lists. So at that point, they basically told us that they didn't know. Like he was probably one of the casualties that didn't make it.

And so this morning I woke up thinking positive thoughts. That maybe, because there were 36 people named and he still wasn't on that list of people that had died. So I was hoping that he was just somewhere. And I got the call around 1:00 that his family had just found out that he didn't make it.

VAN SUSTEREN: How is the family doing? Probably pretty poorly.

RIGAS: I can't even really understand them on the phone because they are crying so much. And it's not good for anybody right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tell me about him. Where did you first meet him?

RIGAS: I met him here in Orlando. He had just moved here from Texas. And we actually met at another nightclub. And we didn't talk for a couple weeks after that and he had been here about two weeks. And he called me and asked me if we wanted to have like a radio of our first date, I guess, per se. And we did.

And ever since then, we have probably spent in three years two weeks apart from each other. Like if he had to go somewhere for work or visit his family or I went somewhere for work is the only time we were not together.

VAN SUSTEREN: So, you have a relationship with him. Bought a house together?

RIGAS: We have a house together.

VAN SUSTEREN: And everything was fine until Saturday night?

RIGAS: Yes. If I could go back and change this, we wouldn't even left the house.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's so hard to understand the evil of this, isn't it? I mean, I don't even -- as I said to you, when I sat down, I didn't even know what to say to you.

RIGAS: I was afraid I wasn't even going to be able to do this interview because this morning when I got the news, I couldn't stop crying. It was just -- every time I look at Facebook and see this outpour of people that are sending their condolences, I can't even look at it because it just brings tears to my eyes every single time.

Like I'm fine one minute and the next minute I'm a basket case. It's just -- it's a lot to take in. You never think that something like this will happen to you. Like you see things like this on the news and you are like, God, I'm so glad I wasn't there. Or it's just something that you -- I wouldn't wish this on anybody.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, for me, it's like, you know, listening to these stories, it's like -- you know, it's a regular Saturday night and everybody is going out to have fun. And everything is, you know, the whole point is to have fun and to meet people and have a social night. And then this.

RIGAS: Yes. I mean, I don't even usually go to Pulse on Saturday night. And I just -- it just was a fluke that we happened to be there last night or two nights ago. I haven't had much sleep so I don't really know what day it is.

VAN SUSTEREN: So how are you? That's probably a stupid question to ask. I don't even know what to ask you.

RIGAS: I'm getting by. I mean, I don't know -- I went to my house yesterday to pick up some clothes and it was very hard to walk in our bedroom and see his things there. And I knew I couldn't stay there last night and thank God my friend Lisa had me at her house.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know any of the other people who were there? That were, I mean, any other deaths?

RIGAS: I know six people on the list so far.

VAN SUSTEREN: Six on the list?


VAN SUSTEREN: And who are they

RIGAS: I mean about three of them are acquaintances that I know from the club. And I mean one of them, i have known since I was a teenager. And I couldn't believe it when I saw his name on the list there.

And the guy that I carried out was another one that ended up not making it through.

VAN SUSTEREN: The one who was so badly injured?


VAN SUSTEREN: Boy, it's unthinkable, isn't it?

RIGAS: It's -- I don't -- I can't even describe how I -- the emotions that are going through my mind and my body and everything like that. Tough.

VAN SUSTEREN: I was actually surprised that you wanted to talk to us, you know, because I know that you just learned about it. And I figure somewhat you are a little bit in shock sort of is my thought.

RIGAS: Well, I mean, the thing is that if I don't get the story out there, who is going to tell it? Like, I mean, you don't want somebody to give you a fabricated story or something that hearsay that I have been hearing on the news.

I mean, you want to know something from somebody that was actually there and had to go through this incident.

How do you get in with a gun like that? Like, I mean, how do you walk past people like with something like that? I mean, once you are in, you are in. So you really -- there is really nothing you can do.

I don't blame the club. I don't blame the owners. I don't blame any of them. I blame myself for a lot of it because we could have easily just stayed home.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's not the issue, you can't blame yourself. That's not right. I mean, you know, going out on a Saturday night -- I mean, you shouldn't blame yourself, obviously. I mean, don't blame yourself.

RIGAS: Yes. But I mean -- regardless, I'm going. That's just what's going through my mind.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was Frank like?

RIGAS: He was a great guy. He was very funny. So much like we did everything together. We have traveled. We have been on two cruises. We were planning to go to New York next month for his birthday. And all that in one night just gone.


VAN SUSTEREN: We appreciate Brett for taking the time to speak to us during this, obviously, incredibly difficult time.