Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Pulse public records shed new insight on June 12 mass shooting

Posted By on Wed, Jun 29, 2016 at 12:59 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JEREMY REPER
  • Photo by Jeremy Reper
Newly released public records from the city of Orlando on the mass shooting that killed 49 at the gay nightclub Pulse during "Latin Night" reveal more about the terror during those early morning hours of June 12. 

Using Orlando Police Department and Orlando Fire Department dispatch records, the timeline of that morning becomes clearer:

-2:02 a.m. OPD receives the initial dispatch of shots fired. In the next minute, a man calls saying there's someone shooting inside the club and that he's hiding upstairs with six people. People from inside Pulse keep calling, whispering to operators that they are hiding in the attic, the bathroom and a closet as they hear shots in the background. As the minutes pass, the operators hear people screaming, "Help!" and one person says, "I'm shot!" At 2:09 a.m., one dispatcher says, "My caller is no longer responding. Just an open line with moaning." At 2:26 a.m., another person whispered to the dispatcher, "Please help." Callers are reporting gunshot wounds to arms, legs, ribs and the chest area. 

- 2:18 a.m. Dispatcher says a female caller can hear shots, and for a while, no further shooting is reported. Callers have been reporting that the shooter, who we will later learn is Omar Mateen, is in the bathroom with them. At 2:20 a.m., a 911 caller says Mateen is "loading up."

-2:40 a.m. Mateen makes several 911 calls, including one where he pledges allegiance to ISIS. He tells officials there's possible explosives in the parking lot. One caller says Mateen is wearing a bombs. There is a lull for the next hours as Mateen speaks with crisis negotiators, checks online news about the shooting and texts his wife. 

-4:08 a.m. The OFD bomb truck and crew arrive, though bomb sniffing dogs have been at the scene searching since around 3 a.m. Ultimately they don't find anything. Minutes later, callers report Mateen is about to start shooting again. At 4:21 a.m., police help people trapped in the dressing room escape by removing an air-conditioning unit. Around 5 a.m., OPD Chief John Mina decides for law enforcement to go in after Mateen tells a negotiator he's going to put a bomb vest on himself and four hostages. Theu use an armored vehicle to break through a bathroom wall where people are trapped.  

-5:07 a.m. Dispatchers report hearing four explosions, which police later say are controlled explosions from law enforcement. At 5:14 a.m., the reports say shots are fired, then a minute later, dispatchers report Mateen is down. At 5:17 a.m., the report says, "Bad guy down strapped." OPD confirms Mateen is dead at 5:53 a.m.

The records also included text messages, emails and other communication from city officials. Orlando Fire Marshal Tammy Hughes texted Orlando Fire Chief Roderick Williams hours after the shooting saying a photo from a code enforcement officer shows a soda machine blocking an exit door and that perhaps one or two exits were blocked. Fire officials have disputed this since the records were released. 

"We have no indication that exits were blocked," says Ashley Papagni, a spokesperson for the department, in a statement. "OFD conducts regular 'exit checks' to ensure businesses have the proper life safety measures in place. After a review of fire records, there is no pattern of exits being blocked inside Pulse, this includes the most recent exit check conducted on May 21."

The small infractions found on the last report included "a fire extinguisher on the ground instead of hanging on the wall" and "one exit sign was in need of battery for back-up power," but no obstructed exits or locked doors. Papagni says for a club the size of Pulse, city code requires two exits and Pulse had five. The Orlando Sentinel reports witnesses at the club told they had trouble exiting the building that night. 

"Based on the fire department’s records, Pulse’s occupancy levels were generally in compliance," Papagni says. "When firefighters conduct checks and inspections, occupancy levels are checked every time. Recent records indicate there was not a pattern of being over capacity."

You can look through the rest of the records here.

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