After a night of dancing was interrupted by a fusillade of gunshots, a man called 911 to tell the dispatcher his friend was trapped inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
While the man was talking to the police operator at 2:18 a.m., another friend kept the man inside the club on the line.
“He’s not talking anymore, sir,” the man said. “He’s just crying.”
This conversation was one of many made public Wednesday by the city of Orlando after the FBI released the calls from its investigation into the mass shooting at Pulse, the gay nightclub that was the scene of the worst mass shooting in modern American history.
Some of the calls detail the shooter’s movements throughout the club in the early-morning hours of June 12 during a four-hour police standoff, which ended with 50 people dead, including the shooter, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who opened fire with an assault rifle into the popular club.
The FBI said the calls “no longer need to be protected as part of the active criminal investigation,” so the city is reviewing and releasing whole and partial calls through the regular public records request format.
Multiple media organizations, including the Miami Herald, are suing the city for the release of the more than 600 emergency calls made by club-goers and their friends and family and the four from the shooter, Mateen.
“While we are glad the City has begun releasing 911 calls related to the Pulse tragedy, they represent a fraction of the total calls we have been seeking for months. The lawsuit will continue because the City had no valid basis to withhold these records from the public in the manner it did in the first place. That wrong must still be addressed,” said attorney Mark Caramanica in a statement.
Caramanica is representing the media companies, including the Herald.
The second batch of calls released Wednesday, from the Orlando Fire Department, detail the efforts from all departments to amass enough medical and law enforcement officers to respond to the shooting.
In the 2:18 a.m. call, the caller told 911 his friend’s mom was shot in the shoulder. The wounded mom could have been Brenda Marquez-McCool, a 49-year-old mother of 11 and two-time cancer survivor who was fatally shot that night.
The city of Orlando redacted the identities of the callers and the victims.
The other second-hand call came from a brother in Tampa. His harrowing two-hour 911 call, while he texted his wounded sister and tensely waited for her responses, lasted his entire drive to Orlando.
His sister, who was shot in the leg and rib, hid in a women’s bathroom. A convoluted chain of communication — from her male friend trapped in the men’s restroom, to her, to her brother and then the operator — showed Mateen was in the men’s restroom around 3 a.m., reloading his gun.
“He’s saying that he’s got bombs strapped to him and he’s got a lot of them and he’s a terrorist,” the brother said.
He struggled to get information about Mateen’s location from his sister, who told him over and over she was losing a lot of blood.
“All she wrote back was ‘Bomb help please,’” he said.
At 4 a.m., she told him there were multiple people with gunshot wounds in the bathroom with her. “We are dying in here,” she told him.
Her brother taught her how to apply a tourniquet via text, as her male friend pleaded from the bathroom, “Please hurry up, he’s going to shoot.”
Hours before he and his family made it to the city, he breathed hard and wondered aloud, “God, why is she still there? Why didn’t she leave early? Why did she go to Orlando?”