Downtown Orlando shooting victim praises safety changes, not ready to return

Juan Ayala was shot when someone fired into a crowd

Juan Ayala said he continues to have nightmares after being shot downtown the morning of July 31. But as he recovers, he said it’s good at least there’s action being taken by the city of Orlando to keep everyone safe.

ORLANDO, Fla. – One month ago, someone opened fire into a crowd of people in downtown Orlando, injuring several.

As the search for the suspect continues, one victim says it may be a while before he goes back downtown.

[TRENDING: Ask Trooper Steve: Is it illegal in Florida to use a radar detector in your car? | Here’s what’s happening in the tropics | Win tickets to Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights | Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]

Juan Ayala said he continues to have nightmares after being shot downtown the morning of July 31. But as he recovers, he said it’s good at least there’s action being taken by the city of Orlando to keep everyone safe.

Ayala said he was shot in his thigh while out celebrating his 29th birthday in downtown Orlando with family and friends that morning.

Orlando Police say seven people were hurt after a fight led to gunfire near Wall Street and Orange Avenue.

“All I hear is bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, five shots off rip,” said Ayala. “I looked down and next thing I know, my leg was just bleeding like crazy, man.”

He said everything happened so fast and he’s hesitant about his return downtown.

“Since the shooting, I have not returned and I don’t plan on returning anytime soon,” said Ayala. “I just feel like it’s a little too early for me, man.”

He said now one month later, he’s at least satisfied knowing that following the shooting, Mayor Buddy Dyer has put in place access checkpoints downtown on Friday and Saturday evenings where patrons have to go through metal detectors and weapons checks.

“The good thing is at least they’re taking steps towards trying to make it safer, and that’s what counts, man,” said Ayala.

Ayala said he’s thankful to be alive, though has a few words for the gunman.

“That was super reckless, to have no regard for any life that’s out there,” said Ayala. “If he gets caught, he’ll get What’s coming to him. I believe in karma.”

News 6 is asking police for more data, including how many guns have been recovered.

City commissioners met earlier this month and unanimously passed the first reading of a new ordinance aimed at reducing crime downtown.

It includes making sure private parking lots have security and proper lighting at night, ensuring there is compliance with the noise ordinance, and requiring special use permits for new businesses. A second reading will take place on Sept. 12.

At this time, no one has been arrested in that July 31 shooting. Orlando Police are encouraging witnesses to come forward if you can help in their investigation.

In a statement to News 6, Orlando Police said,

“The safety and security of our community is the #1 priority of the Orlando Police Department. The Orlando Police Department always has a plan in place for our city’s public safety needs to include special events and holidays. It is important to note that our security measures are both visible and not visible. Aside from squad cars or officers in uniform or on bicycles or horses, there will be other resources out there that are less identifiable. And most importantly, we would ask people to remember if they see something, to please say something. Reporting to the police suspicious activity or persons helps us prevent crimes from happening and solving crimes. "

Orlando Police

A spokesperson from Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s office told News 6:

“To ensure a thriving and vibrant city, the safety of residents and businesses throughout Orlando and in the downtown area is a top priority of the City of Orlando.

"We have made significant investments to ensure our downtown is a thriving economic hub and a vibrant destination for our residents and visitors to enjoy our world-class amenities and unique businesses that provide for a high quality of life, with safety an important component in this effort.

“To strengthen public safety, one of the measures we implemented was the expansion of our coordinated access points. Additionally, the city is in the process of making changes to our code to further enhance visitor safety that is aimed at securing private parking lots, making adjustments to our noise ordinance and requiring new late-night businesses to go through a process that requires them to have a safety plan. This ordinance amendment was approved at first read and will go before the board for 2nd read and adoption at the next City Council meeting on September 12.

“These immediate actions were one step toward a comprehensive look at furthering our shared vision for a vibrant downtown. This effort remains ongoing as part of our work on the Downtown Master Plan, which will take the big, transformational ideas from our DTO Outlook Plan into implementable strategies that will further ensure the long-term success of Downtown.

“We encourage our downtown businesses to join the Safety Awareness For Everyone (SAFE) program, as an opportunity for funding for safety measures that can help deter crime. These security measures include identification scanners, security cameras and metal detector systems.”

City of Orlando

About the Author:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.