Emergency call logs released on Thursday portrayed a terrifying and frantic situation as the wounded clubbers made calls to dispatchers and police officers, some of them saying they were losing their breath.
Among the references in the latest batch of calls logs released by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department is one to an 18-year-old woman who said “she is losing eyesight and feeling in her body.”
A total of 49 people were killed in the attack on the Pulse nightclub in the early hours of June 12, and another 50 were wounded. The gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, was subsequently shot dead by police at the scene of the attack, the worse mass shooting in modern US history.
The Associated Press said that Orlando Police initially responded to reports of an attack at Pulse, which was popular with the LGBTQ community, at 2.02am. But as the dispatch centre became overwhelmed that night, overflow calls were sent to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s emergency call-receiving centre.
In addition, 911 calls made by parents and concerned friends outside of the Orlando area who were communicating with victims inside the club were routed to the sheriff’s centre that night.
By 2.10am, Orlando police had told officers there was still an active shooter inside, and sheriff’s dispatchers began receiving calls from victims, the AP said.
“Victim (says) her body is going numb,” a dispatcher wrote at 2:21 a.m.
One minute later, another dispatcher wrote: “Another subject called in to advise she was injured, sounded out of breath. Advised she was possibly in the bathroom.”
At 2.36am, a third dispatcher wrote: “My (victim) is 18 years of age....she is losing eyesight and feeling in her body.”
The logs show it took just minutes for law enforcement to know they were dealing with a shooter carrying a high-powered weapon, and that normal protections were not an option.
At 2.17am, a dispatcher wrote that units “need shields,” referring to bulletproof armored shields used to protect officers in raids.
A minute later, another police officer said that the gunfire coming from Pulse “sounds like an AK” or “a long rifle.” “Shield will not stop rifle fire,” a dispatcher wrote.
Throughout the ordeal, the sheriff’s logs show people pleaded for the police to come inside and help.
“Pleading for deputies to enter back entrance to club on NW corner. He is in the room on the west side of the building in a closet in the back,” a dispatcher wrote at 2:40am
Several minutes earlier, at 2.32am, a dispatcher wrote: “Complainant advises losing feeling in her leg…Just keeps saying I don’t want to die today.”
Numerous club-goers managed to escape from Pulse during the three-hour standoff, and first responders managed to pull some victims from the front of the club when Mateen went into the back areas.
Questions have been asked as to why the police SWAT team did not storm for a full three hours. When they did, they used an armoured vehicle to breach a wall, freeing people and allowing the police to shoot and kill Mateen.
“Confirmed suspect is down,” a dispatcher wrote at 5.31am.
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