Federal report sheds new light on OPD's Pulse response

Document chronicles timeline of incident, observations, lessons learned

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Department of Justice on Monday released a 198-page critical incident review of the Orlando Police Department's response to the June 12, 2016, Pulse nightclub attack, where 49 people lost their lives.

In 2016, Orlando Police Chief John Mina asked the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services for the review, which was completed by The Police Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based group. The review evaluated the agency's leadership and relationships, tactical response and command control, equipment and training, as well as officer safety, investigation, media and public information and community engagement.

Read the full report, here.

The report outlines the timeline of events for that day, including the minutes on Jun. 12 when Pulse shooter Omar Mateen parked his rented car at the Pro Tint & Detailing shop and began walking toward the nightclub. The timeline also includes the number of people evacuated from the club while gunfire was exchanged with Mateen.

Body camera footage captured a bystander speaking with officers outside the club in the moment following the attack.

Bystander: “Y’all is gonna shoot his [expletive]?”
Officer: “We can’t, ma’am.”
Bystander: “What do you mean, you can’t?”
Officer: “We can’t; there’s more victims in there. If we started to shoot, we might shoot other people.”
Bystander: “[Expletive] go in there and shoot his [expletive], man.”

Furthermore, the report details that 69 of the critically injured victims were transported to the hospital within 40 minutes, and of those, 58 survived. Officials credited the transport response with lives being saved.

The review compared Mina's leadership similarly to the leadership in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack. Additionally, the review emphasized that relationships with other agency leaders FDLE's Danny Banks and Orange County Sheriff JErry Demings helped with the coordination of the response in the days following the attack.

Read: Pulse Victims Remembered

The report released observations and lessons that the agency should learn from, including the initial response in the six minutes before officers entered the club after the attack began. "As soon as they could determine where the suspect was, the contact team, led by the OPD SWAT commander, engaged the suspect and forced him to retreat into the restroom, while the other contact team triaged and rescued victims," the report said.

"The first officers on (the) scene of an active shooting incident should organize contact teams to engage, contain, apprehend, or neutralize the gunman and rescue victims," the review board said of the lessons learned in this incident. The report also noted that a greater level of coordination was needed at the scene and across the agencies.

"Law enforcement supervisors must anticipate and train to prevent uncoordinated and inefficient self-deployment. After adequate personnel are on the scene, additional personnel should be directed to staging areas for assignment of duties and should be directed to return to the staging area prior to their dismissal or return to their regular assignment after being relieved. Uncoordinated self-deployment, particularly in instances of mass public violence and or a terrorist attack, presents officer safety challenges and depletes resources that may be needed to respond to secondary attacks or regular calls for service," the report said.

The report outlined that first responders were ill-equipped to respond to the mass shooting. Their body armor "did not provide sufficient protection against the .223 caliber rounds fired by the suspect," the report outlines. 

"Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) should include active shooter armor kits (ballistic helmets and ballistic vests with ceramic plates) that afford greater protection from semi- and fully automatic weapons and.223 caliber and other ammunition."

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