No victims struck by officers during Pulse shooting response, shoot review shows

Each time law enforcement pulled the trigger, was justifiable, review says

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

ORLANDO, Fla. - No victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting were hit, wounded or killed by friendly fire of the more than 180 rounds of gunfire fired by police and deputies, a shooting review by the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office has found.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala's office reviewed more than 400 shots fired by 15 people, including those by the gunman, after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement sent its review to the State Attorney's Office. It is standard procedure for the FDLE to conduct an independent review when a law enforcement officer discharges their weapon.

Ayala and Assistant State Attorney Deborah Barra presented their findings Wednesday, clearing all officers, more than 970 days after the massacre.

A shooting review seeks to answer, “In the single moment that they decided to pull the trigger were they justified in doing so?” Barra said.

The State Attorney's Office reviewed more than 350 witnesses statements, radio traffic, video, ballistic reports and 911 calls of the incident before completing their review of law enforcement fire.

More than 50 people were injured and 49 killed on June 12, 2016, when a lone gunman opened fire on the South Orange Avenue nightclub. The victims' families were informed of the findings before the general public, Barra said.

While presenting the review, Barra declined to use the gunman's name.

"It was very clear to me in this event he wanted notoriety, to know his name," Barra said. "And therefore I will never play a part in that."

Orange County Sheriff John Mina, the former Orlando Police Chief who commanded the response to the shooting at Pulse nightclub, was there for the announcement along with some survivors of the massacre.

"While there is no way to take away the pain and the devastation that has been imparted upon our community, it is my hope that sharing the results of this investigation will help survivors and the loved ones find closure and answer any questions," Ayala said. "They do deserve to have answers."

There were five times law enforcement officers from the Orlando Police Department or the Orange County Sheriff's Office who fired their weapons, according to the review.

Fourteen law enforcement officers fired their weapons while responding to the standoff and shooting over a period of four hours, including 11 Orlando police officers and three Orange County Sheriff's Office deputies.

Barra said that during the first round of gunfire from the shooter, he fired 186 times from an assault rifle and 22 times from a handgun. His assault rifle jammed, likely preventing more deaths, she said.

The third time officers opened fire on a person they believed was the gunman, they fired on a civilian because the person, at first, failed to comply with the officers' commands to show their hands but "they did not hit the individual," Barra said. That person would later comply and be escorted out of the club, Barra said.

Police and deputies would attempt to shoot the gunman five times. He was fatally shot during the second to last engagement with officers and then once again when he was down, according to the FDLE review.

After explaining each incident when police or deputies fired their weapons, Barra said she was "very confident to say absolutely no civilians were struck during this engagement."

Ayala said the review was "the end for us" as far as the state attorney's involvement in clearing all officers.

The FBI has not closed the investigation into the Pulse shooting more than two years later.

Earlier this year, FBI officials said the agency is no longer conducting interviews or analyzing evidence but is continuing "the process of addressing a wide variety of administrative case requirements, such as the return of evidence."

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