ORLANDO, Fla. – In June, the greater Orlando area is honoring the 49 people killed 5 years ago at the Pulse Nightclub and recognizing the first responders who were there that morning, including Orlando police officers.
Orlando police Chief Orlando Rolón and other officers spoke to reporters Wednesday ahead of June 12, marking 5 years since the mass shooting.
Orlando police officers were the first on scene that Sunday on June 12, 2016 just after 2 a.m. when a lone gunman opened fire on club goers dancing on Latin night at the gay nightclub along South Orange Avenue.
Body camera video initially released by Orlando police and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office showed the gruesome scene officers encountered as they attempted to free trapped victims from the nightclub during an hours-long standoff.
“No one would have ever guessed in our department that we would experience something like that,” Rolón said.
Law enforcement officers, including police and deputies, fired 172 shots during their final engagement with the Pulse gunman, killing him.
Many of the first responders have suffered from PTSD as a result of the response to the shooting.
The chief said the community showed an outpouring support after shooting for first responders.
“Times have changed. Unfortunately, right now for the law enforcement --this is a personal comment --the law enforcement profession has, rightly so, has been questioned as to how we deliver services because of the actions of a few not the actions of all,” Rolón said, referring to the response to the death of George Floyd.
Rolón the LGBTQ+ community is important in Central Florida and most impacted by the Pulse shooting.
“As we continue as a nation to experience the divisiveness that we are seeing I can only hope that in the coming years -- because it will take some time to heal -- in the coming years, we will go back to what our nation is best known for which was a nation of one - of many of one - and we can all live together and shar many things accept differences and be there for each other and demonstrate love conquers instead of hate,” Rolón said.
Click here to read about the 49 people killed that day from the perspective of their friends and family.