FHP did not respond to Pulse nightclub shooting

Agency admits communication errors on morning of massacre

ORLANDO, Fla. – Minutes after a gunman began opening fire inside the Pulse nightclub, Orlando police dispatchers put out an alert on an inter-city radio system requesting backup from surrounding law enforcement agencies.

Soon, officers from Maitland, Ocoee, Winter Garden, Oviedo, the University of Central Florida, the Orange County Sheriff's Office, the Seminole County Sheriff's Office and several other nearby departments were racing toward Orange Avenue.

Some of those out-of-town officers aimed their weapons at the nightclub's doors in case the gunman were to emerge as Orlando police entered the building, records show. Others provided security at a nearby restaurant parking lot where wounded victims were being loaded into pickup trucks and driven to the hospital. Many visiting officers used their patrol cars to block off roads surrounding Pulse.

But one Central Florida law enforcement agency was noticeably absent from the mass shooting scene early that morning: the Florida Highway Patrol.

"FHP had no troopers initially respond to the Pulse incident," Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Kim Montes told News 6.

Less than six minutes after Omar Mateen began murdering patrons inside Pulse, the Florida Highway Patrol learned via radio that Orlando police needed units to assist with an active shooter situation, according to FHP.

An FHP dispatcher immediately relayed some of that information to the seven troopers who were on duty in Orange County, six of whom were busy investigating unrelated traffic incidents.

"There's now a shooting at 1912 S. Orange Avenue, just north of Esther Street, at Pulse nightclub. Multiple subjects down," the dispatcher said.

The dispatcher indicated the call was a "Signal 14," meaning it was for informational purposes only. She did not specifically instruct those troopers to stop their work and respond to the nightclub, records and radio recordings show.

"We recognize that this was a clear miscommunication on behalf of our duty officers," Montes said. "The department is taking steps to reinforce procedures to ensure effective and heightened communications are relayed to our troopers."

[MORE COVERAGE: Orlando Nightclub Shooting]

Around 2:16 a.m., less than 15 minutes after the massacre began, Orlando police dispatchers announced over the inter-city radio that the gunman was barricaded inside the nightclub, according to FHP. That prompted FHP dispatchers to cancel the alert to troopers on the road.

"FHP's typical response (in that type of situation) is to cancel any responding units," Montes said. "We don't have hostage negotiators. We don't have a SWAT team."

Orlando police never specifically requested assistance from FHP until around noon that day, according to Montes. That's when troopers began three weeks of around-the-clock traffic control duty at the crime scene, she said.

Previously released records detailing police response to the Pulse attack indicate there were hundreds of officers on scene in those early hours. Even though most FHP troopers have recently taken part in active-shooter training courses and carry rifles in their patrol cars, law enforcement officials have never suggested that additional lives could have been saved by the presence of even more officers at Pulse.

"It is imperative we disseminate all available information to all law enforcement officers and other law enforcement agencies immediately," FHP Communications Commander Keith E. Gaston wrote in an email to his staff four days after the Pulse massacre. "Emergency situations, such as calls for backup, shootings, violent crimes in progress, large scale civil disturbances, etc., require expedient response by law enforcement."

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