Recordings of conversations that Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen had with emergency dispatchers and negotiators were released to the public Monday under court order.
Judge Margaret Schreiber of Florida's Ninth Judicial Circuit ordered the release, according to lawyer Rachel Fugate of Thomas & LoCicero law firm.
The judge decided to evaluate further more than 200 other recordings of calls made to and from people in the nightclub, Fugate said after the Monday hearing. The 9th Judicial Circuit is Orange and Osceola counties, and Orlando is in Orange County.
Transcripts of the conversations Mateen had with dispatchers and negotiators have been available for more than a month, but not the actual audio recordings.
On June 12, Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Fla., embarked on a shooting spree at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, that left 49 dead and dozens injured. Mateen was killed after a standoff with law-enforcement officials.
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“The legal battle has been proceeding for some time and there was a lot of back and forth, but we’re now down to the last remaining issues with respect to whether these calls will be released,” Fugate said.
The City of Orlando asserted the calls couldn’t be released because of an active criminal investigation and also because they could depict the killing of a person, Fugate said.
“Any recording that depicts the killing of a person is exempt, but it does provide a mechanism to show good cause to get those recordings,” the lawyer said. The cause would be to evaluate the police response to the emergency.
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If a call doesn’t fall within the exemption, it will be released, Fugate said. But if it does, the judge will “make a determination whether there’s good cause for access in some form to the call.”
No time frame was given during the hearing on when that could occur, she said.
“I think this is going to give better insight into the timeline of events, what was happening within that nightclub, what were emergency responders communicating with the victims and the hostages in there and did they act swiftly enough in rescuing them,” Fugate said.
Early in September, the City of Orlando stated that the Department of Justice and the FBI “advised the city of the FBI’s determination that the 911 calls no longer need to be protected as part of the active criminal investigation into the Pulse nightclub massacre.”
Gannett, the publisher of USA TODAY, was one of more than 25 news organizations and news advocacy groups, including CNN and The New York Times, who sued Orlando in Orange County Circuit Court to compel release of the tapes.
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