A group of survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting and family of those killed filed a lawsuit alleging Orlando law enforcement failed to prevent or sooner bring the massacre to a close. The suit comes days before the two-year anniversary of the June 12, 2016 shooting.
More than 35 individuals signed on to the suit as plaintiffs, including six people shot during the Pulse shooting, six family members of individuals killed in the attack, 20 uninjured survivors, and a former police officer who responded to the shooting, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The suit singles out Adam Gruler, an off-duty police officer guarding the parking lot of Pulse the night of the shooting, and 30 “John Doe” police officers unnamed in documents at the moment. “These defendants chose to allow the patrons of the club to be massacred while these defendants ensured only that they themselves were safe,” the lawsuit reads. “These defendants knew that there were innocent people being massacred and that they themselves were the only ones who could stop it, and that it was their job to do so, yet they still, in a manner that shocks the conscience, chose to disregard the safety of the patrons while instead ensuring only that they themselves were safe.” (MyNews13 reporter Greg Angel shared pertinent parts of the lawsuit on Twitter.)
The City of Orlando and the Orlando Police Department released a statement declining to comment on the lawsuit specifically but reiterating that “On the morning of June 12, 206, federal, state and local law enforcement officers and first responders put themselves in harm’s way to save as many lives as possible.”
The suit says failure to protect those inside Pulse violated plaintiffs’ civil rights and that police were “deliberately indifferent” to those rights. Of Gruler, the suit says his actions were “so egregious and outrageous it shocks the conscience.” Gruler provided security in the parking lot for Pulse most of the night but left his post to track down a suspected individual going into the club with a fake id. During that time, shooter Omar Mateen, who’d been in the club earlier that night, pulled a rental van into the parking lot and pulled out a Sig Sauer MCX rifle and Glock handgun before returning to Pulse and shooting patrons.
Security footage of the shooting shows Mateen re-entered the club at 2:01 a.m. While Gruler fired at Mateen from the parking lot, he did not follow the shooter into the club.
Gruler testified in the March trial for Mateen’s widow and afterward spoke to The Advocate. He dismissed comparisons being made at the time to his response and the much-maligned response of a school resource officer at the Parkland shooting in February. When asked if he would have responded differently in retrospect, he declined to hypothesize and instead said the community in advance of the two-year anniversary should focus on healing together.
Police first entered the club around 2:07 a.m. Mateen ultimately blockaded himself in a bathroom with hostages, but after he falsely told police by phone that he had bombs on himself and in his vehicle outside, police cleared the club. Law enforcement would breach a bathroom wall and killed Mateen in a firefight around 5:14 a.m.
The lawsuit accuses 20 officers of showing up at the scene and refusing to enter the club to “ensure their own safety.” After they did enter, the suit alleges, they engaged the shooter but after he retreated left Pulse and didn’t return. “Finally, approximately three (3) hours later, after allowing Shooter to murder and injure many helpless people who had no hope other than these defendants, the police finally made their entry and neutralized the Shooter,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit also takes issue with the fact police, after pulling survivors and victims from the club, detained and held them for an extended time and didn’t allow contact with the outside world. During this time, police were interviewing witnesses. Police have said they believed a second shooter might have been active or among the injured.
At a press conference announcing the lawsuit, Pulse survivor Keinon Carter, who was pronounced dead at multiple points while being treated for his injuries, said his life had been changed forever by the event. “Victims of the Pulse shooting deserved better security and protection than what was provided,” he said.
Of note, the Orlando Sentinel highlights that the law firm representing plaintiffs in the case, the Law Offices of Conrad Bennedetto, have been in a separate public row with other Pulse survivors who were flown around the country apparently to market the legal services of the firm to other mass shooting survivors. Several survivors who shared their story with The New York Times were not among plaintiffs in this case, the Sentinel reports.