By Heather R. Cotter, International Public Safety Association Executive Director
On June 12, 2016, an unexpected act of terrorism hit a soft target in the City of Orlando late in the evening. The horrific attack – the deadliest in modern times since 9/11 – took the lives of 49 individuals and wounded 53 others.
Several first responders were on scene as the incident unfolded – an event that lasted over three hours.
While reviewing the below timeline, think about the importance of creating an integrated response – you will clearly see how it takes several teams and personnel to respond to an incident of this magnitude. Timeline source – FBI.
- 2:02 a.m.: OPD call transmitted multiple shots fired at Pulse nightclub.
- 2:04 a.m.: Additional OPD officers arrived on scene.
- 2:08 a.m.: Officers from various law enforcement agencies made entrance to Pulse and engaged the shooter.
- 2:18 a.m.: OPD SWAT initiated a full call-out.
- 2:35 a.m.: Shooter contacted a 911 operator from inside Pulse. The call lasted approximately 50 seconds, the details of which are set out below:
Orlando Police Dispatcher (OD)
Omar Mateen (OM)
OD: Emergency 911, this is being recorded.
OM: In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficent [Arabic]
OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [Arabic]. I wanna let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.
OD: What’s your name?
OM: My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.
OD: Ok, What’s your name?
OM: I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may God protect him [Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.
OD: Alright, where are you at?
OM: In Orlando.
OD: Where in Orlando?
[End of call.]
(Shortly thereafter, the shooter engaged in three conversations with OPD’s Crisis Negotiation Team.)
- 2:48 a.m.: First crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately nine minutes.
- 3:03 a.m.: Second crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately 16 minutes.
- 3:24 a.m.: Third crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately three minutes.
In these calls, the shooter, who identified himself as an Islamic soldier, told the crisis negotiator that he was the person who pledged his allegiance to [omitted], and told the negotiator to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq and that is why he was “out here right now.” When the crisis negotiator asked the shooter what he had done, the shooter stated, “No, you already know what I did.” The shooter continued, stating, “There is some vehicle outside that has some bombs, just to let you know. You people are gonna get it, and I’m gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid.” Later in the call with the crisis negotiator, the shooter stated that he had a vest, and further described it as the kind they “used in France.” The shooter later stated, “In the next few days, you’re going to see more of this type of action going on.” The shooter hung up and multiple attempts to get in touch with him were unsuccessful.
- 4:21 a.m.: OPD pulled an air conditioning unit out of a Pulse dressing room window for victims to evacuate.
4:29 a.m.: As victims were being rescued, they told OPD the shooter said he was going to put four vests with bombs on victims within 15 minutes.
(An immediate search of the shooter’s vehicle on scene and inside Pulse ultimately revealed no vest or improvised explosive device.)
- 5:02 a.m.: OPD SWAT and OCSO Hazardous Device Team began to breach wall with explosive charge and armored vehicle to make entry.
- 5:14 a.m.: OPD radio communication stated that shots were fired.
- 5:15 a.m.: OPD radio communication stated that OPD engaged the suspect and the suspect was reported down.
Safeguarding first responders, rebuilding a community
As demonstrated in the above timeline, the chaos the first responders had to work through is unimaginable.
First responders are experiencing PTSD as a result of the attack – some have come forward publicly and others are apprehensive due to the stigma that is often (and wrongly) associated with it. PTSD in public service is a serious health concern that tends to have a negative connotation. This needs to change. We must safeguard all first responders so they can fully recover from critical incidents.
The City of Orlando has made significant strides to rebuild the community and their first responders. A ceremony was held in early May to honor the first responders for their bravery that night – more than 300 were recognized including 911 call takers/dispatchers, law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs, emergency room doctors and officers from neighboring departments. Similar ceremonies have also held from 2016 to today to honor and recognize the work of the first responders.
The City of Orlando and Orange County Government, in collaboration with Pulse, have jointly designated June 12, 2017, as “Orlando United Day – A Day of Love and Kindness.”
The city is holding several events to remember the victims and to rebuild the community. While this attack occurred in Orlando – first responders around the globe felt its impact.
Let’s all take a moment to remember the victims, the fallen and the first responders impacted by the Pulse attack.
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