ORLANDO—Disturbing new details emerged late Monday night as experts began to examine the tactics used by Orlando Police in handling the massacre at Pulse Nightclub that left 49 victims dead. Among new facts revealed during the continuing investigation was that the killer, Omar Mateen, did not die inside the club, but rather outside after police rammed a two-foot by three-foot hole in the wall about two feet above the ground, and Mateen came scrambling out along with trapped hostages.
The killing of Mateen occurred three hours after his initial gun battle at the entrance to the club with an off-duty police officer, Adam Gruler, a member of OPD since 2001 who was working extra duty at Pulse. It was nearly three hours later before the Orlando SWAT team stormed the building and ended the massacre.
The additional police officers and SWAT members involved included Lieut. Scott Smith, Sergeant Jeffrey Backhaus, Officers Timothy Stanley, Kevin Easterling, and Andrew Bishop, Sergeant James Parker, Detective Raul Rivas, Lieut. Jonathan Bigelow, plus Officers Ricardo Duenas and Michael Napolitano. It was Napolitano whose Kevlar helmet was hit in the shootout, effectively protecting the policeman.
According to AP crime reporter Lisa Marie Pane, the decision by law enforcement to not enter Pulse immediately raises questions among experts in police tactics. The experts suggest that lessons learned from other mass shootings show that officers must get inside swiftly to stop the threat and save lives.
“We live in a different world. And action beats inaction 100 percent of the time,” Chris Grollnek, an expert on active-shooter tactics and a retired police officer and SWAT team member, told Pane.
The situation changed from an active-shooter scenario to a hostage situation once the killer made it into one of the bathrooms where patrons were hiding, authorities said.
Experts say there’s a big difference between responding to a lone gunman and a shooter who has hostages.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said the presence of hostages required officers to “reevaluate, reassess what is happening and make sure all the pieces are in place.”
From the restroom, Mateen called 911 and made statements pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. It is alleged that at that point the shooting stopped and hostage negotiators began talking with Mateen for the first time, Mina said.
“We had a team of crisis negotiators that talked to the suspect, trying to get as much information as possible, what we could do to help resolve the situation … He wasn’t asking a whole lot, and we were doing most of the asking,” Mina said.