Guests of Hotel at Universal Studios Orlando Forced to Run for Their Lives as Gunfire is Heard Between SWAT Team & Murder Suspect

hotel and universal studios orlando globe in background with man's mugshot in front center of photo
Credit: IHG Hotels/Orlando Police Department/Discover Universal

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.

universal studios globe and attractions at orlando resort

Credit: Discover Universal

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.

hotel building

Holiday Inn & Suites across from Universal Studios Orlando/Credit: IHG 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.

hotel near universal studios orlando and pool

Credit: Trivago/Canva

“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.

Viel was named a suspect in the shootings of two Orlando Police officers on Friday, August 4, in downtown Orlando. The shootings took place during a traffic stop involving Viel. According to officers, Viel shot two policemen, wounding them, before carjacking another individual and fleeing the scene. Both officers were taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center. One was released on Tuesday, and the other officer is still recovering.
map of area near universal studios orlando

Credit: Google Maps/Canva

On Saturday, officers arrived to find that Viel had barricaded himself inside a hotel room at the Holiday Inn. Orlando Police officers further say that Viel refused to surrender to their requests. SWAT Team members arrived on the scene and ultimately returned fire after the suspect fired shots at SWAT officers.
“The suspect shot at our SWAT officers multiple times,” Chief Smith explained. “SWAT officers returned fire, striking the suspect multiple times. The suspect is now deceased. The community is safe, and we’ve done what we needed to do.”

Orlando Police Chief Eric Smith/Credit: Orlando Police Department

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.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!