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Report: Police Responding To Pulse Nightclub Performed Well

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Brendan Byrne/WMFE
The Florida Channel
Orlando Police Chief John Mena briefs the media after the release of the DOJ's after-action report.

A new report from the Department of Justice and the Police Foundation takes a critical look at the police response to the Pulse nightclub shooting.

The nearly 200 page review concluded that the Orlando Police Department responded to the shooting in a “manner consistent with national best practices and under extremely volatile and difficult circumstances.”

But the review was critical of some aspects of the response. Approximately 300 Orlando area law enforcement personnel responded but the report says there was a need for better coordination.

There was also little communication ahead of the explosive breach that would lead to the end of the nearly three hour long standoff. Many perimeter officers were caught off guard and unprepared to help survivors rescued by the SWAT team.

The report found many of the first responders were ill-equipped to protect themselves against the gunman. The body armor issued to patrol officers offered little protection from the shooter’s weapons. Orlando Police Chief John Mina said that’s changed in the wake of Pulse. “One of the things we did immediate after the Pulse shooting was outfit our officers with Kevlar helmets and addition body armor,” he said after the report’s release.

According to the report, Orlando Fire Department and EMS were not included in the command center. In fact, because of an outdated paging system, Orlando Fire Department’s chief didn’t arrive at the scene until after the shooter was killed.

Paramedics were not allowed inside the club because it wasn’t deemed safe. So the report says departments need to figure out a plan on how to get victims out of hostile situations – whether it’s by training all personnel in emergency medicine, getting tactical medics trained or both.

The report also recommends during major incidents, an officer be dispatched proactively to the trauma center to improve communications. The report chided the police department for not having a decontamination facility ready. Many of the officers had to do their own cleanup.

Despite the critical review, Chief Mina said he’s satisfied with law enforcement’s response. “A lot of the lessons learned highlight what we did right and what we want to pass along to the rest of the law enforcement community.”

Mina requested the review after the 2016 shooting that killed 49 people. An FBI investigation considering the shooting is still ongoing and is looking at the possibility of friendly fire. Mina said he remains in contact with the FBI and doesn’t believe any victims were struck by friendly fire.

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.