Pulse Investigation: What We Still Don’t Know
CRYSTAL CHAVEZ: It’s been two years since the Pulse nightclub shooting and an official investigation into what happened remains under wraps. 90.7’s Brendan Byrne has been following the law enforcement and the legal angle of this story and joins us now. So Brendan, what’s the status of the investigation into the Pulse shooting?
BRENDAN BYRNE: So there are two official investigations that stemmed from the shooting. One is from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the other is from the FBI. Each agency was looking at essentially two different things. The FDLE investigates any officer involved shooting. In this case, the FLDE investigated the interaction between the responding officers and the shooter, Omar Mateen. The FBI is looking at the interaction between the shooter and the victims.
CHAVEZ: Okay, so there’s two investigations. Where are they now?
BYRNE: The FDLE’s investigation is wrapped up. The FBI tells me its investigation is also finished, it is just tidying up administrative things like returning evidence. Both of those investigations are now in the hands of the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s office. It’s now up to the State Attorney to review those files and see if there’s a case for legal action on behalf of the state.
CHAVEZ: Do we know what’s in those files?
BYRNE: We don’t. They are not open to the public yet. In fact, in a FBI response sent to WMFE Monday to a Freedom of Information Act request, the file remains closed to the public due to pending or perspective law enforcement proceedings.
CHAVEZ: But in the time after the shooting, the city and law enforcement agencies released lots of information like 911 calls, crime scene photos. What else is there to find out?
BYRNE: Right, the city did release a lot of information from the investigation including autopsy reports of the 49 victims and the shooter. What is not in those reports is ballistic evidence – so what bullets went where. And one question we still have is what happened during the shootout with the suspect shortly after 3 am… and was anyone was injured by friendly fire.
CHAVEZ: What’s next?
BYRNE: As I mentioned, there are two reports. The FDLE and FBI report are both in the hands of the State Attorney. Now the Orlando Police Department still needs conduct its internal review of the incident. That review, I’m told, is on hold until the State Attorney makes a decision on whether or not there are any legal filings. Then both will go to the OPD.
CHAVEZ: But haven’t there been official reports published by these law enforcement agencies?
BYRNE: You’re right. A Department of Justice-commissioned report was released last year that generally praised the response of law enforcement…finding the response was “appropriate and consistent with national guidelines and best practices.” Other agencies like the FDLE have released internal reviews of its agency’s response to the shooting as well. But we still don’t have one clear, official, public report from the incident.
CHAVEZ: “Appropriate and consistent?” Hasn’t the response of law enforcement been challenged since the shooting?
BYRNE: It has. Critics of law enforcement say they waited too long to engage the shooter. They treated the incident as a hostage situation rather than an active shooter situation. As we’ve discussed since the shooting, there were a lot of questions that revolve around those 20 minutes from when the shooter opened fire and then holed himself in the bathroom. Footage released from inside the club shows just how chaotic the scene was as law enforcement stormed into the club.
CHAVEZ: So who is critical of the response?
BYRNE: Just last week, more than 30 survivors and representatives from victims’ families filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging the City of Orlando, law enforcement officers and the off-duty security guard failed to provide adequate protection from the gunman. The same group also filed a separate suit against the owners of the club, alleging Pulse failed to provide security that could have stopped the shooter.
CHAVEZ: So now we wait for the FBI report. Is there any indication as to when that will be released?
BYRNE: We just don’t know. Once the State Attorney’s office is finalized, it will be subject to public release. When that happens is anyone’s guess.