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Exclusive: New 911 Logs Reveal Horror Inside Orlando Club

"Losing feeling in her leg...Just keeps saying, I don't want to die today," a dispatcher with the Orange County Sheriff's department wrote about a 911 caller inside the Pulse Nightclub a half hour after police received reports of shots fired. "Caller in the back room pleading please tell the cops to come," wrote another dispatcher about a separate call. 

Newly released documents from the Orange County Sheriff's Office, obtained exclusively by WLRN,  offer more detail of the grisly scene unfolding in the first minutes of the response to the nightclub shooting in Orlando earlier this month.

 

Communication logs between dispatchers, deputies and victims calling 911 from inside the Pulse Nightclub offer new clues, but still no firm answers, on why it took more than three hours for law enforcement to subdue the gunman in a rampage that killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others. 

The massacre unfolds over 15 pages recording text messages and radio communications from deputies on the scene, and graphic messages describing the terror inside the club.

 

Here is the timeline of the attack, reconstructed by WLRN based on call logs from the Orange County Sheriff's Office, the Orlando Emergency Response team and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

 

  Related: "Very Loud, Very Surreal, Very Short;' Orland Fire Chief Revisits Emergency Response 

Ten minutes after the shootings began the transcripts show authorities were in communication with a man trapped in the bathroom with gunshot wounds in the chest and stomach. Callers to 911 said they were losing feeling in their arms and legs. One whispered as the shooter screamed in the background.

This is the latest release of law enforcement communications during the chaotic moments of the attack. It also raises questions about the timing of the police response. After an initial confrontation with the gunman, it took officers three hours to storm the building and end the standoff.

Officials have defended the police response saying it followed protocols, such as falling back due to the threat of explosives.

In these logs from the sheriff’s office, the first word of a bomb threat came nearly an hour after the first shots were fired and about 30 minutes after it became clear that victims inside the nightclub were in critical condition.

 

The records show that within minutes of the attack that began around 2 a.m., police had a generally accurate idea of the situation: that multiple people had been shot, the suspect was still inside the club and people were hiding where they could — including in a bathroom.

Those circumstances didn't change substantially during the attack and the more than three-hour standoff that followed. 

By 2:17, the sheriff's communication records show, word emerged that the suspect was barricaded along with "multiple subjects" somewhere in the club. Almost immediately, gunshots were reported.

Seconds later, a call was relayed that personnel at the scene "need shields" — something that was repeated an instant later. But that report was followed by two other observations: that the weapon sounded like an AK-47 or another long gun — and that a shield "will not stop rifle fire."

Some 10 minutes later, after sheriff's personnel relayed both the civilians' requests for the police to come in and save them as well as witnesses' reports of "people bleeding out" in a bathroom, a similar call again went out, saying that the shield used by officers is "not equipped for long gun."

At 2:24 a.m., a request from inside the club was relayed: "Caller pleading for the cops to come inside and in the back room."

Taken along with Tuesday's release of  hundreds of pages of documents by the Orlando Police and Fire departments – whose SWAT team carried out the assault that ended the standoff some three hours after the attack began – the sheriff's department records offer a new lens through which to view the night when  49 people were killed and dozens were wounded.

Several types of communications are repeated over the course of the 15 pages that are at the heart of the sheriff's records:

  • Victims' reports on the number and condition of the wounded.
  • The shooter's movements and weapons.
  • Victims' pleas for authorities to enter the club.
  • Law enforcement's discussion of equipment and deployment.

In addition to concerns about deputies being vulnerable to long-gun fire, other dangerous and/or confusing issues also arose.
Around 2:51 a.m., for instance, reports came in that the shooter had claimed to have "explosive devices" in a vehicle in the parking lot. And at 4:29, deputies were advised of a report that the suspect "is going to attach four vests to four people in different directionals in the club."

The fact that explosives aren't mentioned in the sheriff's transcripts until some 50 minutes after the first shots were fired could alter discussions about the attack.

At 5:02 a.m., a warning came that police would be setting an explosive charge and the Orlando police force's SWAT team would be making an entry into the club — setting into motion the events that would culminate in the shooter's death.

That report was followed by an order to stand down — and then, minutes later, word that police were searching for victims of the attack.

NPR's Bill Chappell contributed to this story. 

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.
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WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.

WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.
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WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.

WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.
/
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WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.

WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.
/
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WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.

WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.
/
/
WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.

WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.
/
/
WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.

WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.
/
/
WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.

WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.
/
/
WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.

WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.
/
/
WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.

WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.
/
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WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.

WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.
/
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WLRN obtained the transcripts of the computerized logs of the 911 dispatchers on duty the night of June 12, 2016.