Pulse 911 Recordings Paint Picture of Chaos

     (CN) — Orlando’s release of dozens of 911 calls made during the Pulse nightclub shooting depicts a frantic situation as law enforcement tried to contact and reason with the gunman inside the club.
     The release comes after a three-month legal battle with several media groups who sought to make the recordings public.
     The city also made public a transcript of shooter Omar Mateen’s first call to 911 during the shooting:
     “This is Mateen,” he told the operator at 2:35 a.m. on June 12. “I want to let you know I’m in Orlando and I did the shooting.” He then pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State group and hung up.
     Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53, making the mass shooting the worst in modern U.S. history.
     Following a three-hour standoff, a SWAT team killed Mateen after storming the nightclub.
     The recordings — 77 from the Orlando Fire Department and 62 from the city’s police department — are mostly frenetic communications between first responders trying to react to an ever-changing, stressful situation.
     “What?!” yells a police dispatcher while dialing out. “They said there’s a shooter at ORMC [Orlando Regional Medical Center]!”
     That information proved to be wrong, along with reports of explosives in the parking lot and two shooters inside the nightclub.
     When one officer called for the license plate number of the shooter, a dispatcher supervisor said, “I’m sorry — I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off.”
     In addition to nearby residents calling 911 after hearing gunshots and reporters looking for information, some of the calls were from people related to those trapped inside the nightclub.
     “I have five employees that are in the dressing room hiding,” a manager of Pulse told one dispatcher.
     “I told him to stay quiet and hide in the corner or something,” said the brother of a patron who called 911 to alert them to the shooter.
     In another call, a man texts his sister while talking to dispatchers, trying to find out her location in the club.
     “They are all hiding and they’re panicking and I’m trying to keep them as calm and quiet as possible,” he tells the dispatcher. “They’re sniffling and — it’s terrible. I’m trying to tell them to be quiet and stay calm.”
     The dispatcher tells the man not to call her “in case someone hears it.”
     In addition to Mateen’s first call to 911, the city released transcripts of a call between the shooter and a police negotiator.
     “Can you tell me where you are right now so I can get you some help?” the negotiator asked.
     “No,” Mateen answered. “Because you have to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq. They are killing a lot of innocent people. What am I to do here when my people are getting killed over there. You get what I’m saying?”
     “I do,” the negotiator replied, before Mateen interrupted: “You need to stop the U.S. air strikes. They need to stop the U.S. air strikes, okay?”
     Mateen continues on about airstrikes until the officer asks what the shooter has done.
     “You already know what I did,” Mateen said.
     “Look, I’m trying to figure out how to keep you safe and how to get this resolved peacefully, because I’m not a politician, I’m not a government. All I can do is help individuals and I want to start with helping you,” the officer said.
     In response, Mateen warned about bombs located in the vehicles outside. After a frantic search during the siege, officials did not find any explosives.
     “My homeboy Tamerlan Tsarnaev did his thing on the Boston Marathon, my homeboy [unidentified] did his thing, okay, so now it’s my turn, okay?” Mateen said.
     The officer continued to try and calm the situation and at one point said his name was “Andy.”
     “My name is Islamic soldier,” Mateen replied.
     As the officer attempted to ascertain whether Mateen is alone or wearing an explosive vest, the shooter continued to rant about airstrikes and, at one point, taunts officers.
     “Bring your little American bomb dog,” he said. “They are f*cking outdated anyway.”
     He hangs up seconds later. By now the officer had the shooter’s name and called him back, but still could not get answers.
     “No, Mr. Hostage Negotiator,” Mateen said. “Don’t try your bullsh*t with me.”
     “Well, I’m trying to help you,” the officer said. “And you don’t want people to get injured. I presume that means if you brought somebody with you, you don’t want them hurt. Is that correct?”
     “None of your business, homeboy,” Mateen responds.
     Mateen continued to hang up on the negotiator, who continued to call back. During the last call, Mateen tells the officer,” You’re annoying me with these phone calls and I really don’t appreciate it.”
     The shooter hangs up at 3:25 a.m.
     The city is still withholding hundreds of 911 calls, citing a state law that prohibits the release of recordings that depict someone’s killing. The final calls between Mateen and crisis negotiators were also not released.
     A group of media companies filed the public records lawsuit in Orange County 10 days after the shooting, seeking all 603 calls made to Orlando emergency services. The city responded with its own complaint, which argued the recordings were integral to an ongoing investigation in addition to the state law.
     On Sept. 8, the FBI told the city the calls no longer need to be protected.
     Last week, Orlando Circuit Judge Margaret Schreiber agreed and dismissed the city’s lawsuit, but kept in place the exemption for recordings in which a death can be heard.
     Judge Schreiber must still decide if the city wrongfully withheld the records for too long. If she decides it did, the city may be on the hook for the media companies’ legal fees.

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