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No Civilians Were Shot By Law Enforcement During Pulse Shooting, Investigation Finds

Feb 13, 2019
Originally published on February 13, 2019 2:07 pm

Updated at 12:10 p.m. ET

The Florida state attorney's office has ended a six-month investigation into the Pulse nightclub shooting, concluding no civilians were shot by law enforcement.

The question of friendly fire has plagued law enforcement since the June 2016 shooting left 49 dead during Latin Night at the predominantly gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. The state attorney used the FBI's ballistics report, as well as witness accounts, video evidence and 911 calls.

Law enforcement opened fire five separate times during the standoff, which lasted more than three hours. In total, 14 officers fired more than 180 shots — but hit no civilians.

"As our city grieves the senseless tragedy of the Pulse nightclub shooting, I hope sharing the results of this investigation help the survivors and loved ones find some closure," State Attorney Aramis Ayala said in a news release.

All 14 officers have received clearance letters from the state attorney that the shooting was reasonable and justified. Eleven of the officers were with the Orlando Police Department, and three were members of the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

"At this point, if there were something that were criminal we would proceed," Ayala told reporters at a press conference Wednesday. "There was absolutely nothing criminal on the conduct of anyone, so there is no criminal prosecution that will proceed. It is the end of the line for us."

Orange County Sheriff John Mina — formerly the Orlando Police Department's chief — said an announcement like this could bring back emotional trauma for first responders.

"Reviews of these incidents sometimes bring back those feelings," he said, offering services including an employee assistance program and the organization UCF Restores.

UCF Restores is a government-funded clinic for veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder. An investigation last year by WMFE and ProPublica found multiple first responders to the Pulse nightclub shooting struggling with PTSD years after the event. That includes several who were fired or forced to stop working because of PTSD.

As WMFE also reported, an earlier report from the Justice Department and the Police Foundation found that the Orlando Police Department followed appropriate protocols but there was a need for better communication. Many perimeter officers were caught off guard and unprepared to help survivors rescued by the SWAT team.

Copyright 2019 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.