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Orlando releases nine out of the hundreds of 911 Pulse calls

Published Sep. 2, 2016

ORLANDO — The city of Orlando on Thursday released a tiny fraction of the hundreds of calls that were made to 911 dispatchers during the Pulse nightclub massacre, including calls made by a father whose daughter was hiding in a bathroom after being shot twice and the girlfriend of a dancer who was sheltering from the gunman in a dressing room.

All nine of the calls released by the city of Orlando were from parents, siblings, partners and friends outside the gay nightclub who were communicating through phone calls or texts with patrons trapped inside.

Hundreds of other 911 calls, and communications gunman Omar Mateen made with the Orlando Police Department, are currently tied up in a legal battle between the city of Orlando and two dozen media groups, including the Associated Press.

The media groups argue that releasing the recordings will help the public evaluate the police response, but the city of Orlando says that the recordings are exempt under Florida public records law and that the FBI insists releasing them may disrupt the ongoing investigation.

During the June massacre, Mateen was killed by police after a lengthy standoff in a mass shooting that killed 49 people and wounded 53 others.

Cassandra Lafser, press secretary for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, said in an email that the FBI had approved the nine calls to be released "as they do not contain anything that is considered 'active criminal investigative' material."

Earlier this week, the Orange County Sheriff's Office, which assisted Orlando Police in responding to the nightclub massacre, released a different batch of 911 calls.

The calls released Thursday came from the a manager whose five employees were hiding in a dressing room, a woman whose girlfriend also was trapped in a dressing room, a man whose sister was hiding by some trash and a father in Tampa whose daughter had called him to say she had been shot twice and was hiding in a bathroom.

"They are just all hiding and panicking," said the man whose sister told him phone she was hiding with three friends by some trash. "I was trying to keep them as calm as possible but they are all sniffling. I'm trying to tell them to stay calm."

The woman whose girlfriend was a dancer trapped in a dressing room told a dispatcher she had been waiting outside the club when she heard shooting. Her girlfriend was still inside the club.

"She is freaking out right now," the woman said. "She is saying 'Tell a cop. Tell a cop.' "

The father in Tampa told a dispatcher, about a half hour after the shooting started, that his daughter had called him saying she had been shot in the leg and arm and was hiding in the bathroom. The dispatcher tried to reassure him by saying that police officers were securing the area and that firefighter-paramedics would be going into the club soon. In reality, it would be at least another two and a half hours before SWAT team members breached a club wall to free patrons trapped in the bathroom.

"I'm sorry that's not a lot I can tell you right now because the officers are out there right now," the dispatcher said. "All I can tell you is try to take a deep breath and hopefully she will call you really soon."

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