Images recorded by the body cameras of police responding to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando illustrate the chaos they faced as they cleared entrances and entered the building where gunman Omar Mateen had barricaded himself in a bathroom early on the morning of June 12.
In one of the videos released by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, officers with guns drawn are seen entering the nightclub, where disco lights still project images of colorful flowers around the club. The videos then go black, redacted to hide the images of bodies. But the audio plays on. Out of the darkness, a cellphone rings. Then another.
More footage shows officers running toward the building, while a group of other law enforcement officials waits outside.
“Hey find out if they need a stretcher over there,” someone shouts.
The recordings are the latest batch of public records released in the months after the shooting, which left 49 dead and at least 53 injured. Mateen was also killed during the shooting. A judge also ruled on Thursday that the city of Orlando should release many of the 911 calls made during the shooting. Some will be released in audio form. City officials told news outlets the others would be released as transcripts next week.
In one of the videos, blue lights flash in the morning darkness outside the nightclub as police respond to the scene.
One officer remarks that the gunfire “sounds like an AK.” He warns another officer, “Your shield will not stop AK fire. It’s not rifle-certified.”
In another video, officers are standing outside a door to the club discussing the shooting. The video shows the barrel of a rifle pointing toward the nightclub. They’re talking about hearing gunfire earlier from inside.
“Those shots sounded so damn close when we were standing here. This guy came prepared,” one says.
At some point they hear that the shooter is apparently barricaded inside a bathroom.
“He’s got a few hostages,” an officer says.
They get word that someone made a call to dispatchers claiming to be the shooter. The officers continue trying to figure out which bathroom he’s in.
Others who are inside the building plot out where they are going. “There is a dressing room somewhere near the left of the stage.”
Outside, a sobbing man approaches officers. As he’s led away, he tells a deputy he was a DJ in the club before the shooting. “As soon as I heard gunshots, I put the volume down,” the man says. He wasn’t injured.
The scene repeats as more victims emerge.
“Please help my friends,” one says to officers, adding that they are “very injured.”
As 5 a.m. approaches, A SWAT team blows a hole in the building, which is neither seen nor heard on the body cam video.
An officer says, “One SWAT guy took one to the helmet,” referring to Orlando Officer Brian Napolitano, who suffered a minor injury. Another responds, “To the helmet?” He confirms, “Yeah, but he’s good.”
A short time later an announcement is made that Mateen is down. Four people have been found in one bathroom and nine in another. There’s no mention of whether they are dead or alive.
Outside Orlando Regional Medical Center, officers talk to clubgoers who escaped the shooting.
“My best friend got shot,” one says. “The guy started shooting everyone in the club. Everybody.”
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