Records released Tuesday in the Orlando nightclub shooting don’t offer any blockbuster revelations but flesh out chilling and at times troubling details into the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Among them:
▪ The Pulse nightclub passed a city fire inspection in January, but just weeks before the massacre, an inspection revealed one of six exit doors was “inoperable.” The city’s fire marshal noted she saw a photo of a soda machine blocking one door.
Code enforcement staffers would have to “answer some tough questions,” the city’s fire marshal wrote in an e-mail to Orlando’s fire chief. It’s not clear from the records if the exit door was cleared before the shooting.
▪ A log of 911 and police calls chronicle 193 minutes of chaos, with terrified callers describing a gunman apparently reloading as he stalked victims in the dark nightclub, possibly with bombs strapped to his chest. Some described horrific gunshot wounds to their friends and some fell victim themselves.
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“My caller is no longer responding, just an open line with moaning,” one dispatcher wrote.
▪ Orlando Police Chief John Mina’s phone was flooded with text messages in the hours after the shooting — messages he rarely responded to, with some replies appearing to have been redacted. The 19 pages of text messages consist of mostly condolences and offers of supports from other police departments and community members.
City officials in Orlando released the call logs, code-enforcement records and e-mails of city officials as media agencies Tuesday went to court in an effort to obtain 911 calls and other police communications that would provide a more precise timeline of what unfolded inside the nightclub.
So far, officials have refused to release audio of calls shooter Omar Mateen made to 911, and calls between him and Orlando police’s crisis negotiators during a three-hour standoff. More than 20 news agencies, including the Bradenton Herald, have sued seeking the 911 calls, which in general are public record under Florida law.
It was early on June 12 that Mateen entered the popular gay nightclub in Downtown Orlando, armed with a assault-style rifle and a pistol in what is now considered the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Forty-nine people died, and 53 were wounded – Mateen himself was killed by SWAT officers after they punched holes in the wall of the club’s bathroom.
Although some lines were redacted, the call logs released largely verified, in fragments, the narrative already provided by Orlando police. “Shots fired,” read the first 911 log entry.
Many dispatches are terrifying snapshots of chaos and a fast-unfolding massacre: “Someone screaming help ... still hearing gunshots .... multiple people screaming.”
At 2:10 a.m., a line notes “making entrance at patio” – which may refer to what police have said was officers confronting Mateen in an initial gun battle.
By 2:15 a.m., the log reads “shooter trapped in bathroom.” A few minutes later, the SWAT team was paged while another dispatch described Mateen as “loading up.”
Many of the logs chronicle injuries: shots to the chest, stomach, arms and legs. Victim has gunshot wound “to leg and rib,” one operator reported. “Losing a lot of blood.”
At 2:30 a.m., as Mateen was holed up in the bathroom, he “pledges allegiance to the Islamic State.” More than 10 minutes later, he claimed to have explosives in the parking lot.
Other callers said he had “several bombs strapped to him.” Those reported proved to be unfounded by clearly complicated the challenge for police.
The dressing room window was an escape route for some, but the rest of the survivors fell back to the bathrooms.
At 4:29, texts from an officer said the shooter was planning to strap bomb vests on victims in 15 minutes. The SWAT officers breached the club at 5:02 a.m. Thirteen minutes later, Mateen was dead.