News Organizations Sue|For Orlando Transcripts

     (CN) – Two dozen news organizations sued the city of Orlando Thursday after officials refused numerous public records requests related to the June 12 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub.
     The lawsuit, filed in Orange County Circuit Court, seeks copies of recordings between the shooter Omar Mateen and 911 operators and police.
     The media also wants access to 603 calls made to police and fire departments by other individuals between the initial shooting and the Mateen’s death in a shootout with the authorities.
     “There is a strong public interest in fully evaluating how first responders and police reacted during the most critical phases of this incredible tragedy,” the complaint says. “Information gleaned from the actual conversations with Mateen and others lies at the core of understanding exactly how events unfolded and will provide critical insight into the propriety of the government’s tactical response.”
     Orlando officials have also asked the circuit court for guidance on how it should handle releasing those calls and other records.
     The FBI has asked the city not to release any records, because the federal investigation is ongoing. Florida law also prohibits releasing photos or recordings that depict the killing of individuals. The news organizations maintain the law’s “good clause” exemption applies. In addition, they argue not all the calls came from victims who may have died.
     Earlier this week, the U.S. Justice Department touched off a firestorm of controversy when it botched the release of a transcript of calls between the shooter and authorities as the incident unfolded. Initially, the agency put out only a redacted transcript of the calls, but quickly back-pedaled and put out an expanded account of the calls when GOP lawmakers and others sharply criticized the move.
     On Tuesday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch told reporters that more transcripts will be released in coming days, including, “possibly” those of calls Mateen made to other individuals. Lynch said Mateen’s death has made releasing more recordings easier, since there is not a threat to his privacy.
     “Victims’ families undoubtedly now find themselves deeply invested in knowing what motivates Mateen and others to commit such horrible acts and how they can apparently remain calm and focused amid such a chaotic scene of devastation,” the complaint states. “This court should be mindful that disclosure may in fact help prevent future attacks or minimize casualties.”
     “The 911 recordings may be the best way we have of telling the tragic story of what happened at the Pulse nightclub,” said Carol Jean LoCicero of Thomas & LoCicero, which is representing the news organizations. “The people of Orlando and our country need to understand the events of that tragic night. And the media has an obligation to seek these crucial public records.”

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