Pulse Shooting Survivor Angel Colon's Crusade: 'I Was Shot by a Man Who Never Should Have Had a Gun'

After surviving the worst mass shooting in American history, Angel Colon speaks about his anti-gun violence advocacy

Photo: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

On June 12, 2016, Angel Colon was having a carefree weekend out with some friends in Orlando, Florida, when he found himself plunged into a nightmare.

Early that Sunday, gunman Omar Mateen burst into the Pulse nightclub. By the time his rampage was over, he’d killed 49 people and injured 53 more.

It was the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

Colon, 26, was shot six times. He has since gone through three surgeries and months of rehab. A former Zumba instructor, Colon was used to being in top physical shape; now he’s in the midst of a long healing process.

While he was in the hospital, Colon agreed to give a news conference with doctors, nurses and other victims. More than 100 reporters and photographers showed up. “I got to the [conference] room and was like, ‘Whoa!’ ” he recalls of the crowd.

“I didn’t expect to see that many cameras,” he says. “I thought that there would just be a couple of reporters there. I didn’t realize that the whole world would be watching.”


As he spoke, Colon tells PEOPLE he had an epiphany. “I decided right then, I’m not going to let this change me; I’m not going to let it break me down,” he says.

“I gonna have to do something about it.”

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After surviving the mass shooting, Colon became an advocate: A mutual friend put him in touch with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and he flew to Washington to lobby Congress to prevent dangerous individuals from acquiring guns — including those with ties to terrorism.

The FBI had investigated Mateen for such connections, but he was able to legally purchase the weapons he used at Pulse.

“One minute I was having fun and the next, I was shot multiple times and fighting for my life,” Colon tells PEOPLE. “I was shot by a man who never should have had a gun.”

June 12, 2016

Colon’s advocacy work has given him a new purpose.

“I’m just grateful to be here,” he says. “It’s basically a second chance in life. I’m doing anything I can, and helping others as much as I can. I can share my message and my story and try to change the world.”

The 49 victims killed at Pulse were among 15,060 people who lost their lives to gun violence in the United States in 2016, according to the nonpartisan research group Gun Violence Archive. Contact your Congressional representatives, whose phone numbers are provided here; find out what they’re doing about this gun violence epidemic — and let them know what you think should be done to stop it.

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