Orlando Seeks Direction on Shooting Calls Release

     (CN) – The mayor of Orlando on Thursday asked a circuit court judge for guidance on how it should handle releasing 911 calls and other records related to the June 12 massacre at a gay nightclub in the city.
     Forty-nine people were killed and 53 injured when Omar Mateen opened fire on the club with an assault rifle while declaring his allegiance to the Islamic State group.
     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.
     The Associated Press has filed a requests for a release of 911 calls and other documents. However, according to the complaint, the FBI has repeatedly told the city that all recordings made in connection with the shooting are part of an on-going criminal investigation and cannot be released.
     In addition, the city says, “[t]he unreleased portions of the Pulse Shooting Recordings are believed to depict ‘the killing of persons’ as defined by Florida Law, and may include the sound of gunfire, victims voices and the suffering perpetrated on the Pulse Shooting victims.”
     “Out of respect for the Pulse Shooting victims and their families, and pursuant to Florida law and the direction of the FBI, the City has not released the remainder of the Pulse Shooting Recordings,” the complaint says.
     In light of these concerns, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer asked the Orange County Circuit Court to intervene and advise the city on how to handle the “voluminous” public records requests it has received from the news media.
     According to the complaint, the Orlando police and fire departments received 603 telephone calls over the three hours between the initial shooting and the Mateen’s death in a shootout with the authorities.
     Of those, 166 calls were made to the police and fire 911 system.
     “It is believed that a majority of these calls were related to the Pulse Shooting,” the complaint said.
     The city is asking to court to determine what Freedom of Information exemptions apply to the records, and what it can release without compromising the ongoing investigation.
     “In response to these requests, the city is attempting to satisfy the requirements of state law, the direction from the FBI, the needs of the media and Mayor Dyer’s commitment to be responsive and transparent to the public,” the city said in a written statement.
     However, the mayor’s office said it still has “hundreds of 911 communications that cannot be released until the city receives guidance from the court.”
     “It is important that we are completely open with the community about what happened that night at Pulse,” the mayor said. “We support the FBI’s commitment not to compromise the integrity of the investigation, but we must balance that with our responsibility to be transparent with the Orlando community and comply with state and federal laws.”

%d bloggers like this: