Rodney W. Sumter II, who has ties to the City of Sumter, was assisting as a bartender at Club Pulse in Orlando in the early hours of June 12 when a gunman, Omar Mateen, came into the club and shot 102 people, killing 49 of them and leaving 53 injured.
Sumter, 27, was shot three times, once in each of his arms and in his back, barely missing his spine. Bleeding and running on adrenaline, he ran outside into an adjacent parking lot, where he was assisted by a man who Sumter's family said saved his life.
Joshua McGill, a nursing student from Orlando, was hiding under a car and found Sumter. McGill tied his shirt and Sumter's shirt over his wounds to stop the bleeding and got him to the nearest police officer, according to his Facebook post on the incident. McGill rode with Sumter to the hospital, holding him in a tight grip to keep him from losing any more blood.
"Rodney's a walking miracle," said his grandmother, Maggie Sumter Hunter, a lifelong Sumter resident. "If it wasn't for Josh being there that night, there's no telling what would have happened to him. Josh saved his life."
Hunter had just finished up worship service at St. Luke AME Church in Sumter when she learned of the news from her daughter, Tamekia Hunter Ross, and her son-in-law, Arnteyus Ross.
"I was numb," Hunter said. "All kinds of thoughts went through my head. It was like an empty feeling."
Sumter is the son of Hunter's oldest child, Rodney Sumter Sr., a graduate of Sumter High School and an Army veteran. Sumter Sr. and his wife, Lenita King Sumter, live in Jacksonville, Florida. Rodney Sumter II has two siblings, Marquel Sumter and Kyimi Sumter.
Ross found out about the incident from her husband.
"We were watching the news that morning before church but did not think Rodney was in that club that night," she said.
Rodney was a bartender at another club in Orlando. He was assisting at Club Pulse, something he had been doing for only about three weeks, Ross said.
"He was working behind the counter when the shooter came into the club," she said. "When the shooting started, he and another bartender ducked behind the bar. When the shooter came around the bar, that's when he got shot."
Ross said she was leaving Victory Full Gospel Interdenominational Church in Sumter when her phone lit up with missed calls and text messages.
"My husband called me and told me 'don't leave church,'" she said. "He said 'your nephew was at that club, and he got shot.' I don't remember anything else after that point."
That same night, Ross had seen a national television news interview with McGill, in which he described how he met Sumter in the parking lot of the club and helped him to the hospital. McGill did not know Sumter's last name at the time, and was trying to find information on him and what his condition was, Ross said.
Ross found McGill's Facebook page and sent him a message.
The next morning, McGill contacted Ross and described in detail that tragic night and how he helped Sumter.
"He got very emotional, and asked 'how is Rodney?'" Ross said. "He said 'please tell me he's OK.'"
Ross said McGill had kept going to the Orlando hospital where Sumter was being treated, but the hospital wouldn't provide him with any information.
"Josh told me he made a promise to Rodney that he was going to be OK," she said. "He saw firsthand the severity of Rodney's injuries. He was distraught because he couldn't get any information on his condition."
Ross said she and McGill cried together on the phone that day.
"I feel like Josh is family now, like he's my other nephew," she said.
Sumter has undergone five surgeries since the incident and is slowly recovering, Ross said.
Sumter has two children, Jada, 9, and Rodney III, 4, and a girlfriend, Taylor Rodriguez.
Hunter said she has received an abundance of support from her pastor, the Rev. Orlando McCauley, and members of St. Luke A.M.E. Church.
"We want to say thank you to St. Luke A.M.E. Church, along with our family and friends from the Sumter community, who reached out to us and are concerned about 'Lil Rodney," Hunter said. "They are continuing to pray for him and supporting our entire family."
A Go Fund Me page has been set up for Sumter. The name of the page is "WeAreRodneySumter." The direct link iswww.gofundme.com/WeAreRodneySumter.