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Documents reveal chaos, confusion in Pulse nightclub shooting

Orlando police officers direct family members away from the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, scene of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Associated Press

Orlando police officers direct family members away from the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, scene of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Documents released Tuesday by the city of Orlando reveal how first responders were confronted with mass confusion during the Pulse nightclub shooting.

In a flood of 911 calls from inside the club, patrons described their efforts to escape the man who moved from room to room, shooting.

Some reported seeing bombs strapped to him. At least one claimed to see snipers outside.

Someone said there were two shooters, and at one point dispatchers heard Orlando Regional Medical Center was under attack.

Officials would later say 29-year-old Omar Mateen never had explosives and acted alone in killing 49 people.

But in the early hours of June 12, nothing was clear.

Dispatchers heard from family members whose loved ones were trapped or dying. A man said his sister had been shot in the leg and rib. A woman called to say her son was on the floor of the VIP section and no longer responding.

The operators listened as callers were forced to whisper to avoid detection, like a woman in a bathroom who thought the shooter had run out of bullets.

The call was interrupted with screams for help:

Hearing gunshots …

Multiple people screaming …

My caller is no longer responding; just an open line with moaning.

The documents released Tuesday offer the most detailed look yet into the frantic scene at the Pulse nightclub and how government officials reacted in its aftermath. Still, they give an incomplete picture of the decisions and actions of the Orlando Police Department.

The city has not released any of the 911 audio or any video footage captured at the scene.

Florida law forbids the release of "a photograph or video, or audio recording that depicts or records the killing of a person." Officials say some of them would fall under that statute, and all are part of an active investigation.

The released records include years of safety inspections and correspondence among high-ranking city officials. They show the nightclub was never cited for any major problems and that it had enough exits to evacuate twice as many people as the 300 who were allowed to be inside.

In the hours after the shooting, emails and text messages show that fire Marshal Tammy Hughes and fire Chief Roderick Williams tried to figure out whether any of the exits were blocked.

A fire safety inspection on May 21 indicated that one door was "inoperable." A separate code enforcement photo shows a soda machine that appeared to be blocking an exit.

On Tuesday, city officials said the safety inspector mistakenly marked the door "inoperable" after a battery pack was found missing from an exit sign. As for the soda machine, a city spokeswoman said investigators are trying to determine how it got knocked over and where it was in relation to the exits.

Text messages and emails released Tuesday show Orlando police Chief John Mina and Mayor Buddy Dyer receiving an outpouring of support as well as questions from journalists and citizens about why police made the choices they did.

Officials have said that officers exchanged fire with Mateen a few minutes after the shooting began about 2 a.m., but that the gunman retreated to bathrooms near the back of the club.

Between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m., Mateen spoke at least four times with hostage negotiators. Authorities have not released a recording or transcript of those conversations, but said Mateen threatened to detonate explosives in the parking lot and inside the nightclub if police did "anything stupid."

Three hours after the shooting began, police began to breach the club walls with explosives and an armored vehicle.

Why did police wait 3 hours to shoot the gunman of a mass shooting? one person emailed the mayor.

How many people (bled) out during those three hours?

Mina and other city officials have defended police decisions as the best options under the circumstances they faced.

Documents reveal chaos, confusion in Pulse nightclub shooting 06/28/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 28, 2016 9:32pm]
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© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


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