New reports are coming out of Orlando, Florida in regards to the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub. A new article is circulating, written by USA Today Network Author Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News, which brings into question whether or not some of the victim’s were shot by members of the Orlando Police SWAT team.
Officers broke through a concrete wall which led to a bathroom on the back side of Pulse nightclub. Those trapped beyond the wall poured out through the narrow opening and to safety. Or did they? While it is clear that many of the club’s patrons made it through the opening and into the arms of rescuers, it is unclear if that applied to everyone.
At some point, Omar Mateen, the gunman and alleged ISIS supporter, burst through the opening and opened fire on the waiting SWAT team. He was killed almost instantly. On Monday, the Orlando Police Chief, John Mina provided some new information about the incident, including “the possibility that some victims may have been killed by law enforcement.”(1) Mina went on to explain that when the officers were fired upon, their “backdrop was a concrete wall.”(1). According to Sarkissian, an unnamed law enforcement source who was “close to the investigation stated “a crowd of up to 300 people and the complex layout of the dance club may have resulted in some patrons being struck by gunfire from officers.”
With little information coming out and with sources being unnamed, it is hard to state if this actually happened or is just theorized based on the logistics of the rescue operation. When one looks at the photograph of the hole in the concrete bathroom wall made by law enforcement, one can clearly see the spray pattern of the bullets around it. It is not a stretch to envision panicked customers, fleeing through the opening in the wall that could have been accidentally shot by law enforcement. If shots were fired into the opening in an attempt to strike Mateen, it is also reasonable to suspect that patrons in the line of fire on both sides of the wall would be at risk. Orlando Police Chief Mina stated that this aspect of the incident would be part of their investigation.
Omar Mateen, now identified as the shooter, is reported to have been an ISIS supporter as he made statements to that affect to 911 operators during the incident. Photographs of Mateen show he was an avid supporter of police, wearing NYPD tshirts while taking selfies. However contradictory these two signals may seem, Mateen was also known to have frequented Pulse, a gay nightclub. He was also seen to have had multiple profiles on various gay dating apps. While the mainstream media is quick to label Mateen a terrorist and an ISIS supporter, the evidence appears to tell a tale of an angry, lonely and confused man.
This is a situation where the police really do have it hard. At this point, no one knows if any of the deaths are attributable to law enforcement response. The only thing that will determine that are the autopsies and ballistic reports to come. Sometimes, we all seem to want to scrutinize police for their actions, and for good reason. This case, however is not really so cut and dry.
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