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Orlando police chief John Mina’s decision to blast a hole through an outside wall at Pulse provided an exit for many trapped inside – including the shooter.Police photos issued hours after the Orlando attack show a simple hole in a wall, about 4ft high and 3ft feet wide. It looks unassuming, just a gap in the grey concrete blocks, but for dozens of men and women who had been cowering behind the wall for hours in mortal terror, it was their escape route to survival.

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At about 5am on Sunday morning, three hours into the deadliest mass shooting in US history, Orlando’s police chief, John Mina, made the portentous decision to send in a Swat team and blast a hole through the outside wall of the Pulse night club, where already more than 30 people had been killed and at least another 30 injured by the gunman. “It’s a tough decision to make knowing that people’s lives will be placed in danger,” Mina said on Monday morning, with notable understatement.

It is not known whether any of the hostages were killed in the operation, or if so how many, but for those who got out, Mina’s decision was life-saving. First a controlled explosion was carried out, but when it failed to breach the wall Mina sent in a Bearcat armored vehicle to punch out the hole.

Immediately the floodgates opened. Traumatized club-goers, who had gone to Pulse on Latin night for what they thought would be a life-affirming chance to dance to salsa and merengue but had ended up trapped in a horror sequence, began pouring out.

“We were able to rescue dozens and dozens of people who came out of that hole,” Mina said.
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