Dramatic footage captured by body cameras on Orlando officers responding to the Pulse nightclub terrorist attack has just been released. Around 11 hours of footage was released Wednesday, revealing scenes of turmoil, panic and, sadly, bloodshed.
The massacre at the Pulse nightclub was the worst mass shooting in modern American history. The footage comes from first responders who entered the nightclub to rescue victims and apprehend or otherwise disable the terrorist. The attack, which happened about a year ago, left 49 people dead.
The shooter, Omar Mateen, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. “I want to let you know I’m in Orlando and I did the shooting,” Mateen said during a 911 call that night. “I pledge my allegiance to Baghdadi on behalf of the Islamic State,” referring to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.
Now, the release of the footage is set to air Wednesday on “World News Tonight With David Muir” and “Nightline.” In interviews, first responders and survivors will recall what happened during the attack and after, alongside the footage.
“We were all in a great mood,” said survivor Jahqui Sevilla. “We were in the club dancing. It was, like, one of the best nights I had — that turned into the worst day of my life.”
Sevilla was one of the victims who lost someone in the tragedy. Although the shooter missed Sevilla, he hit the two of her friends, killing one. “He had a gunshot wound to his chest,” she recalls of the terrible moment she realized her friend was hit. “That’s when I saw that he was injured. He was nonresponsive.”
According to the report, officers responding to calls for help had to pursue the shooter surrounded by the bodies of dead and wounded victims, forced to walk past helpless victims of the violence.
“A person reached up and asked for help, but at that point we didn’t know where the shooter was, if he was detained, if he was deceased, or what was going on,” recalls Kyle Medvetz, an Orlando officer who was at the scene. “So as much as I wanted to help, I could not help him until we know for sure the shooter was detained, contained or deceased.”
Barricaded in a bathroom with hostages, officers say the shooter was cornered but still lethal. As police negotiated with Mateen, officers took victims out to safety. Trapped victims reached out to loved ones by cell phone, leading to numerous calls to the police from worried parents, friends and other relations.
Witnesses say that when Mateen told negotiator Andy Brennan that there was a bomb outside, the threat escalated. Resources had to be pulled back, but the responders report that they weren’t ready to leave.Instead, officers reportedly decided to storm the bathroom.
Coordinating with hostages inside, officers first rescued eight hostages through an opening for an air conditioner. Then, officers made their final assault, driving an armored vehicle called a Bearcat through the wall. The hole was an escape route and SWAT team members were able to pull additional hostages to safety.
Police say Mateen then stepped into the open and began firing at officers.
“It was just, like, a wall of freedom,” said responding officer Michael Ragsdale. “There was 30 seconds of just the most awesome sound you could hear, because it was us returning fire towards him.”
Officers on scene report that a “giant cheer went up” in the command center when Mateen was pronounced dead.
“We all hollered, ‘Yay!’” added dispatcher Bill Hammer. “It was a big uproar.”
Hours after it began, and with the gunman down, officers report being both “proud” and “heartbroken.”
“I was very proud of the police response, but still, you know, this person went in and killed 49 of our community members,” Chief John Mina said. “And so as a community, we were devastated.”
You can see some of the footage here:
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