Sunday, November 19, 2017
Public safety

Lawsuit seeks release of 911 calls from Pulse nightclub mass shooting

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ORLANDO — Attorneys for almost two dozen media groups are arguing in federal court in Florida that a lawsuit demanding the release of 911 calls involving the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando should be moved back to state court.

Attorneys for the Associated Press, CNN, the New York Times and other media groups are arguing Thursday that the case doesn't belong in federal court.

The case pits the city of Orlando against media companies seeking the release of recordings of dozens of 911 calls as well as communications between gunman Omar Mateen and the Orlando Police Department. Mateen was killed by police early June 12 after a lengthy standoff in the shooting that killed 49 people and wounded 53 others.

The media groups argue that the recordings will help the public evaluate the police response to the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The city, which is the custodian of the recordings, claims the recordings are exempt under Florida public records law and that the FBI insists releasing them may disrupt the ongoing investigation.

The media groups filed a complaint in state court about 10 days after the shooting, seeking the release of the recordings. Less than hour later, the city filed a complaint in state court, asking that the recordings be declared exempt from public records law.

In a legal maneuver, the city filed an amended lawsuit, naming the U.S. Department of Justice as a defendant, and DOJ attorneys moved for the case to be transferred to federal court where Florida's Public Records Act isn't applicable.

In court papers, the Department of Justice argues the recordings are federal records and not subject to Florida's public records law.

The media companies argue that the Department of Justice is "one of perhaps many parties standing on the sidelines" and aren't a proper party to the lawsuit.

"This case is a dispute solely between the news media and the city," the media groups said in court papers.

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