Pulse survivors and victims' families file lawsuits against nightclub owners, police

click to enlarge Pulse survivors and victims' families file lawsuits against nightclub owners, police
Photo by Jeremy Reper
A group of Pulse survivors and victims' families filed two separate lawsuits last week against the gay nightclub's owners and the Orlando Police Department.

The lawsuit against Barbara and Rosario Poma, which was filed in Orange County, alleges that the owners "did not take reasonable steps" to prevent guns from entering the club during the early morning hours of June 12 when a shooter murdered 49 people at Pulse. Omar Mateen first entered the club without weapons to scope out the club before returning around 2:02 a.m. with a Sig Sauer MCX, which he started firing. The club had an Orlando Police officer working off-duty that night – but around the time the shooting started, Officer Adam Gruler told the Orlando Sentinel he left his post at the front door to find a teenager who had gotten in with a fake ID.

"Defendants … negligently and/or with utter indifference and conscious disregard ignored Pulse's security needs," the lawsuit filed by attorney Keith Altman states. "The bulky and obviously noticeable weapons that shooter entered to Pulse, through the main entrance, could have and should have been easily discovered by bouncers. … With adequate security measures in place, Pulse shooting could have been prevented."

In a statement released Friday, Barbara Poma said she and her husband had not seen the lawsuit.

"What is important to Rosario and me is that we continue to focus on remembering the 49 angels that were taken, the affected survivors and to continue to help our community heal," Poma said. "We ask that everyone keep the focus where it belongs as we prepare for this Remembrance Week."

Gruler was also named in a second lawsuit filed last week in federal court.

Victims' families and survivors of the mass shooting sued the Orlando Police Department in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida for allegedly violating the constitutional rights of people injured and killed during the shooting.

The federal lawsuit was filed by Michigan attorney Solomon Radner of the firms Excolo Law and 1-800-LAW-FIRM. Radner says Gruler did not provide "adequate security to Pulse, acting recklessly in conscious disregard of the risks."

The lawsuit also alleges police violated club patrons' right by not immediately going after Omar Mateen, which let the gunman hold dozens of people hostage in the club's bathrooms for about three hours.

"These defendants chose to allow the patrons of the club to be massacred while these defendants ensured only that they themselves were safe," the lawsuit states. "These defendants knew that there were innocent people being massacred and that they themselves were the only ones who could stop it, and that it was their job to do so, yet they still, in a manner [that] shocks the conscience, chose to disregard the safety of the patrons while instead ensuring only that they themselves were safe."

Pulse survivor Keinon Carter says he still needs answers after being shot twice at Pulse almost two years ago and losing his friend Antonio Davon Brown.

"Why did it take them so long to do their job?" Carter asks. "I still don't know what happened to [Antonio]. I don’t know what happened to me."

Cpl. Omar Delgado, a former Eatonville Police officer who responded to Pulse that day, also says he felt like the situation took "way too much time."

"I can't Monday morning quarterback what happened," Delgado says. "But as I was standing on this dance floor, I'm asking myself, 'What are we waiting for?' … I have families that have called me and asked me, 'Why did it take so much time?'"

In a statement, a spokesperson for the City of Orlando said the entity had not been formally served with a lawsuit.

"Nearly two years after the horrific act of hate inside the Pulse nightclub, our community continues to mourn the 49 lives taken and provide support for all those impacted," the city's statement said. "On the morning of June 12, 2016, federal, state and local law enforcement officers and first responders put themselves in harm’s way to save as many lives as possible. Our first responders are committed to the safety of this community, and they stand ready to protect and serve."

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