ORLANDO, Fla. — Conversations with the purported gunman at the Pulse nightclub. Tracking down his identity through his cell phone service. Nonstop calls from people reporting loved ones trapped inside the gay nightclub. Mistaken reports about explosives at the club and a false alarm about a second shooter at a nearby hospital.
New 911 calls released Thursday show the frantic pace that police and fire dispatchers faced during the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
“My adrenaline is going way too fast right now,” a fire dispatcher said in one call.
City officials released about five dozen files of calls made to police and more than six dozen files of calls to the fire department after fighting media companies for three months over the release of the records.
Since the massacre in June, the city sought to block about two dozen media groups including The Associated Press from obtaining the government records. A hearing on the continuing legal fight over the 911 calls will be held Friday.
Until Thursday, the city had released about 30 of the more than 600 calls made to dispatchers during the three-hour standoff with gunman Omar Mateen. Forty-nine club-goers were killed and another 53 were seriously injured. Mateen was killed in an exchange of gunfire with SWAT team members rescuing trapped patrons.
The city is still requesting that scores of calls not be released under an exemption that prohibits depictions of death from being made public. The city also wants to keep calls between Mateen and the police department’s crisis negotiation team from being released.
A police communications supervisor, though, recounted one of Mateen’s calls to an Orlando police official whose name is bleeped out at the beginning of the call when he identifies himself. The police official said the FBI had called him about the Pulse shooting, and the dispatcher tells him that Mateen had said what sounded like “an Islamic prayer” and pledged allegiance to “Abdul something. I didn’t hear the name.”
A partial transcript of a conversation that the FBI released in the days after the shooting showed he had pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State.
Another call shows a communications supervisor tracking down Mateen’s identity by calling his cell phone service. A representative tells her, “First name is going to be ‘Omar.’ Middle initial is ‘M’ as in Mary. Last name is ‘Mateen.'”
A supervisor also revealed how police negotiators were communicating with Mateen when a law enforcement officer from another agency, asked to be patched into the conversations with Mateen. The agency and officer’s name are bleeped out. The dispatcher explains that the police negotiators are calling from a fire department communications center, where it’s quieter. In explaining the complexities of looping in the other agency, the dispatcher said, “Every time he hangs up, we are going to have to redo it every single time and apparently he only is answering every 10th call.”
Many of the police calls released Thursday show reporters calling the dispatchers for information about what is happening inside the club. One call to a police dispatcher came from an Orange County Sheriff’s Office worker who was trying to connect the sheriff’s bomb squad unit with the Orlando police’s SWAT team commander. At one point in the standoff, police officials mistakenly believed Mateen had explosives.
About an hour after the shooting started, a police dispatcher called a fire dispatcher to say they believe there’s an SUV in the club’s parking lot with explosive tied to it.
Many of the fire department calls deal with the logistics of sending paramedics to secured, triage areas outside the nightclub and getting wounded victims to a nearby hospital.
In another call, a worker from a nearby hospital where most of the wounded victims were taken tells a fire dispatcher to have paramedics only bring trauma cases. Later, a police dispatcher recounts to the unnamed police official that they are getting reports of a shooter at the hospital. The reports ended up being incorrect.
The media groups say the 911 calls are public records under Florida law and their release could help the public evaluate police response to the massacre.
The city initially said that the FBI insisted their release could disrupt the investigation. But earlier this month, the FBI said withholding the records was no longer necessary.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office, which assisted the Orlando police in the response to the nightclub, on Wednesday released the last of its Pulse 911 calls, including calls that for the first time came from patrons trapped inside Pulse.