Guests of an Orlando hotel at the Universal Studios Orlando Resort were forced to evacuate and run for their lives on Saturday as SWAT officers arrived to apprehend a man inside the hotel accused of shooting two Orlando Police officers less than 24 hours earlier.
Members of the Orlando Police Department, including SWAT officers, surrounded the Holiday Inn & Suites hotel located at 5916 Caravan Court in Orlando on Saturday after a man inside the hotel was seen in a vehicle related to a homicide committed in Miami, Florida. Once on the scene, officers discovered the male suspect was the same suspect who had been named in connection with the shootings of two police officers on Friday, August 4, in downtown Orlando.
The Holiday Inn & Suites is located across the street from Universal Orlando Studios Resort. Though not owned by Universal, the property is among the resort’s partner hotels.
“We just heard a loud bang, and then the fire alarm just kicked in,” a hotel guest explained to local news station WFTV Channel 9 in Orlando. “We thought it was just a false alarm.”
Another guest of the Holiday Inn & Suites hotel said an announcement was made over the intercom that a fire had been reported in the building. Guests were reportedly instructed to take the stairs and evacuate the hotel. Jennifer Berry, who was staying at the Holiday Inn, said that a large police presence could be seen in the hotel lobby and that guests were told to exit the hotel and run across the street to another property for safety.
Berry said that as guests raced toward the other hotel, they heard gunshots.
“We ran across, you know, just in fear of being hit by maybe a bullet or something,” she said. “So, we actually ran across the street. They advised us to run too, so it was very scary.”
According to WFTV News, guests of the Holiday Inn & Suites sheltered in place while the intense and dangerous situation played out and were allowed to return to the hotel just before noon on Saturday. Some guests, however, were forced to stay in a convention room while the Orlando Police Department processed the area where Viel was killed.
Smith said Viel was also wanted in connection with a murder committed in Miami, Florida, more than 230 miles south of Orlando. The ordeal on Saturday at the Holiday Inn & Suites lasted for hours as Viel refused to exit the room peacefully.
According to Chief Smith, Viel, age 28, had a long criminal history that included the rape of a 14-year-old girl, among other crimes.
Guests were reportedly allowed to return to the hotel just before noon on Saturday, but many were kept in a conference room as crime scene investigators completed their procedures and investigation following Viel’s death.