Judge: Orlando must release Pulse 911 calls
Nearly five months after the shooting, the judge ruled the calls needed to be released for a "public evaluation" of what law enforcement did inside the club
By Christal Hayes and Rene Stutzman
ORLANDO, Fla. — A judge Thursday ruled the city of Orlando must release many of the 911 calls from the Pulse nightclub shooting.
The ruling states audio from 911 calls made after 2:12 a.m. will be released and a transcript will be provided for calls made before that time. The city said the calls will be released next week after they redact the names and personal information of the callers.
"We are grateful for the work of the Court in reviewing these materials and for the clear direction we have received," city spokeswoman Cassandra Lafser said. "The City will immediately begin the process necessary to redact and transcribe the 911 recordings in accordance with the court order and state law and will then release them as quickly as possible."
The Orlando Sentinel and two dozen other media organizations, including the Associated Press, sued the city for access to the records to the records, saying they will provide a clearer picture of what happened June 12 when 49 people were killed and at least 68 others were injured.
The city did not want to release the calls and argued they were exempt under the FBI's criminal investigation and because some calls may depict a death.
Nearly five months after the shooting, the judge ruled the calls needed to be released for a "public evaluation" of what law enforcement did inside the club.
"I think ultimately the court recognized the public interest in these calls and that they will shed light on how law enforcement responded that night and how things unfolded," said Mark Caramanica, who represented the Orlando Sentinel in the case.
Some families of the victims voiced their opinion on the release of the calls before the judge ruled. Some couldn't bear the thought of having to hear their loved ones inside the club, while others thought the calls might help piece together what happened.
The city must release all of the information from the 911 calls in some fashion, the judge ruled, except for the information that identifies the victims.
The public and media are entitled to the calls, the judge ruled, except for those that came in before 2:12 a.m. and one specific call made at 2:14 a.m., she ruled. The judge noted the audio in those calls are "graphic and disturbing" and won't be released. Those calls, though, should be released in transcript form, she ruled.
Caramanica said the court battle isn't over yet. The judge is still set to rule on whether it was appropriate for the city to not release the calls based on the FBI's investigation.
Copyright 2016 The Orlando Sentinel