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Orange County Sheriff's Office Releases Information About Orlando Shooting

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We are learning new details about the desperate scene inside a gay nightclub in Orlando earlier this month when a shooter began claiming his victims. We're joined on the line by reporter Rowan Moore Gerety from member station WLRN. Rowan has gotten a look at some documents from local authorities. And these are documents, we should warn our listeners, that include some pretty gruesome details about what was happening. Rowan, good morning.

ROWAN GERETY, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So what exactly are these documents that you've been looking at?

GERETY: So these are dispatch logs from the Orange County Sheriff's Office. And basically this is a combination of what dispatchers were hearing from sheriff's deputies who were on the scene assisting police and from 911 callers, some of whom are inside the nightclub.

GREENE: OK. So we had already gotten from the authorities some of the details of the 911 calls from the shooter himself. But now we're starting to hear what police officers on the scene were saying and also some of the victims inside.

GERETY: Right. So you'll remember that on Tuesday the city of Orlando released a trove of documents that basically detailed the police and fire response, the dispatch logs for the city of Orlando. This is from the sheriff's office or the county. And so basically what we're getting now are more pieces of the investigative puzzle to understand what happened minute by minute.

GREENE: And what is standing out to you?

GERETY: So very early on it was clear that people calling 911 from inside the nightclub were in critical condition and getting worse. Just about 10 minutes after the first shots are fired, they're hearing from someone who says they've been shot in the chest. Twenty minutes in, people are telling dispatchers they're losing feeling in their arms and legs. Callers are even going unresponsive on the line.

GREENE: I guess, Rowan, that's because people just weren't able to speak anymore, I mean, because they had died or gone unconscious or something like that.

GERETY: That's the way it seems. At 2:24, they hear from a caller who's whispering to a 911 dispatcher with the shooter screaming nearby, pleading for the cops to come inside. A minute later, somebody else is in the bathroom telling a dispatcher there are people, quote, "bleeding out." One victim just keeps telling the dispatcher I don't want to die today. And there's just a lot that the 911 operators were hearing that just shows how gruesome it was inside.

GREENE: Any explanation at this point - I mean, given that the desperate scene you're describing - for why the police waited a number of hours to actually go inside that club, which is one of the big questions people have had here.

GERETY: So it doesn't actually give us a clear answer on that point. From this log, it looks like there was heavy gunfire for at least the first 10 minutes or so after the initial reports and then at least one report of shots fired a half hour after it began. About 15 minutes in, dispatchers reported that deputies who would be entering the club would need shields. And then just a little while later, they hear that, you know, shields wouldn't actually protect anyone from the kind of high-powered rifle that the gunman was using. So it seems like there was some kind of debate about tactics going on.

GREENE: So it sounds like a lot more to learn here, a lot more questions. But, I mean, based on what you're describing, the authorities on the ground were really thinking about whether they could go into this place and - safely and protect themselves.

GERETY: Yeah. We also know the suspect told law enforcement he had a bomb. And one fear there is obviously if a bomb goes off, the carnage that I've just told about could've been much, much worse. In this light, we don't hear about the possibility of explosives until almost an hour after the attack. So there was a window when it seems like the shooting had stopped and there were a lot of people who were inside in bad shape, and officers were not yet going in.

GREENE: OK. We've been talking to reporter Rowan Moore Gerety from member station WLRN in Miami. Rowan, thanks a lot.

GERETY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.