Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest

    Nation

    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.
  2. Police pull unconscious New Port Richey man from SUV in Cotee River

    Accidents

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Police rescued an unconscious driver whose sport utility vehicle plunged into the Cotee River on Saturday.

  3. Analysis: Bannon is out, but his agenda may live on

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — In his West Wing office, Stephen Bannon kept a chart listing trade actions — on China, steel and autos — that the Trump White House planned to roll out, week by week, through the fall. Now that Bannon, the president's chief strategist, has been pushed out, the question is whether his …

    Steve Bannon thinks he could be more effective influencing policy from outside the White House.
  4. Trump to skip Kennedy Center Honors awards program

    Politics

    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — Acknowledging that he has become a "political distraction," President Donald Trump has decided to skip the festivities surrounding the annual Kennedy Center Honors arts awards later this year, the White House announced Saturday amid the continuing fallout over Trump's stance on last weekend's …

  5. Bucs' annual Women of RED preseason party attracts nearly 2,000

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Theresa Jones is primarily a college football fan, but she wanted to get a taste of the Bucs. So the 46-year-old Tampa resident bought a ticket for the team's Women of RED Ultimate Football Party at Raymond James Stadium on Friday.

    Lee White of Seminole tries on a helmet at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers female fans descended upon Raymond James Stadium for the ultimate football party, the 2017 Women of RED: The Takeover, supported by Moffitt Cancer Center. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times