Call Logs Reveal New Details From Orlando Shooting
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
We're learning new details about the Pulse nightclub shootings earlier this month in Florida. Today, officials in Orlando released hundreds of pages of police logs, text messages between fire officials as well as police and additional transcripts of 911 calls. A gunman killed 49 people and wounded more than 50 others during the three-hour siege on June 12. A team of NPR journalists has been poring over the information. And I'm joined now by Caitlin Dickerson. Hi.
CAITLIN DICKERSON, BYLINE: Hi Robert.
SIEGEL: From what you've seen of newly-released 911 logs, do you see any new information there about the police response to the shootings?
DICKERSON: There's some new information. The records show that the documents - that the police response was really quick within a few minutes of shots being fired. And that was reported at 2:03 in the morning. They reveal a sense of chaos. And this isn't surprising, right? We know that there was a lot of misinformation early and that dispatchers were called to the scene.
At one point, police thought that the shooter was outside of the club. At another point, they thought he might have been outside the hospital. None of that turned out to be true. But the logs show, you know, a grim scene of utter terror. The operator reports - 911 operators say they heard sounds of moaning from one victim inside a bathroom. Another shows a caller was whispering please help into the phone. And then finally, more than three hours later at 5:17 in the morning, a log says simply bad guy down, strapped.
SIEGEL: Well, I want to bring in Kirk Siegler right now, who's also been looking over all these documents, NPR's Kirk Siegler. Kirk, there have been a lot of questions about why it took SWAT team so long to move in on the shooter. Is there any more clarity now that these documents have been released?
KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Robert, not really. You know, reading through these, we can infer that there has been maybe some hesitation due to there being multiple reports of the shooter having explosives and making threats that he even had explosives out in the parking lot. Looking through these documents, you know, there are a lot of newly-released emails that question whether this long delay was really the right call. You know, could there have been more lives saved?
And it's clear that the city got a lot of heat about this from the public and that they knew about it. There's one email here showing the sensitivity from a spokeswoman from the Orlando Police Department recommending that the city avoid getting into specifics about this three-hour gap, but instead produce a PSA-style video focusing on first responders.
SIEGEL: And Caitlin, this subject of the three-hour gap. This also comes up in the text messages that were released today that you've been reading. What do you see there?
DICKERSON: That's right. The texts are between fire department officials, between the fire chief and the fire marshal in the hours after the shooting. And they're talking about fire exits. So this is, of course, key to helping us understand did the people inside Pulse have every opportunity they should have to get to safety? The text shows that Pulse has six fire exits, and that's actually more than they needed under code to be code compliant. They also refer though to photos taken after the shooting that show a Coke machine blocking one or two doors.
NPR did speak to the fire department this afternoon. Officials there said they don't know when or how the Coke machine got there but that based on previous door checks, Pulse didn't have a history of blocking doors in an unsafe way. And those checks take place four times a year.
SIEGEL: This was a voluminous release of information today on the shootings in Orlando. And Kirk Siegler, I wonder what information you're still waiting on that might help us understand the event further and might help us understand the police response to it better.
SIEGLER: Well, as you say, Robert, there's just a lot of information here. And there's still a lot of unanswered questions, a lot of information that these documents just don't tell us. A big question that we're looking at - were any of those killed or injured in the nightclub hit by bullets fired by law enforcement?
The Orlando police chief has said that is part of the investigation, but no answers yet. So there's still so much here that I think - we are waiting to find out more information. And a lot will still be yet to discover as we sort of try to piece through what was really just a horrific evening. And these call logs that we've been looking at really exemplified that and back all of that up.
SIEGEL: NPR's Kirk Siegler, Caitlin Dickerson, thanks to both of you.
DICKERSON: You're welcome.
SIEGLER: Thank you, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.