There isn’t one gunshot to be heard in the hours of body camera footage from the Pulse shooting released this week.
On Thursday evening, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office released the first video evidence seen from the Orlando shooting, where Omar Mateen massacred 49 people and wounded dozens more at an LGBT-friendly nightclub.
Footage from inside the club is heavily censored. But in one scene, deputies are shouting at victims and ushering them to safety, while the club’s flower-shaped lights glimmer off the smears of blood on the dance floor.
A man in a floral button-down shirt, who later identifies himself as a DJ at the club, is patted down and led away from Pulse. He takes deep breaths and quietly repeats “oh, s---.” The next man led out begs deputies, “Please help my friends upstairs. They’re very injured.”
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At one point, an officer complains he got blood on himself before he had to chance to put on the blue latex gloves police use to protect themselves.
Much of the video shows first responders waiting. While they aim their rifles at the window, or adjust stretchers to receive victims or examine cars for bombs, they check in on each other and share information.
When deputies walk out of the club, most take deep breaths or mutter expletives.
“Ho-ly s---,” one man says to his partner. “Dude, that was a massacre,” the other replies.
Another deputy exits onto the patio, where crumpled cups, abandoned ringing cellphones and bodies litter the floor, and says “you have to be a f----- up son of a bitch to do this.”
Over by the staging area at the Ragin’ Cajun restaurant, first responders are horrified by the body count. “They must have carried out 70 people,” one man says.
Possibly more notable is what isn’t shown in the footage. No gunshots survive the censor, leaving unanswered the question of how much of an impact, if any, friendly fire from officers might have had, or what went into the police decision to wait three hours before storming the club.
The footage is edited so that no bodies or injuries are shown, and none of the gunshots — nor the explosion that brought down the club’s rear wall — can be heard. Conversations between officers and radio announcements are occasionally bleeped as well, although it isn’t clear why. Instead, the soundtrack to the police response is the cellphones of victims ringing over and over as loved ones desperately try to reach them.
It’s unclear precisely when any of the video was recorded, other than after the initial skirmish between Mateen and a security guard at 2 a.m. and before the 5 a.m. explosion that led SWAT inside the building to exchange the final burst of gunfire with Mateen. Before the final explosion, these videos make it seem like officers cleared out all victims from the building except the dozen or so trapped in upstairs bathrooms with Mateen.
Unlike the sheriff’s department, Orlando police, the primary responders to the shooting, have not released body camera footage. The city will soon release the more than 500 remaining 911 calls made that night from inside and outside the club, after a court ruled in favor of media organizations (including the Miami Herald) that sued for their release.