Orlando, FL – A lawsuit filed on Thursday against the city of Orlando and the Orlando police officers who responded to the Pulse nightclub terrorist attack has alleged that responding officers failed in their duties and violated the civil rights of surviving victims.
“What if the Orlando Police officers who responded to the shooting were aggressive with a plan to rescue victims and hostages and kill the shooter?” Luis Ocasio-Capo, whose brother was one of the victims, asked the Orlando Sentinel. “Would my brother still be alive?”
The only officer specifically named in the suit was Orlando Police Officer Adam Gruler, who was working an off-duty security detail at the club on June 12, 2016 when a gunman opened fire inside it, murdering 49 people and wounding 50 more.
Officer Gruler engaged in a gun battle with the shooter but retreated and called for assistance because he was outgunned by the killer’s SIG Sauer MCX rifle, CNN reported.
Two more officers arrived and they re-engaged the terrorist in a gunfight. During the gunfight, the terrorist retreated into the club and barricaded himself with hostages.
Orlando PD has estimated that the gunman fired more than 200 rounds in five minutes, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
The city and its police department issued a joint statement that said they have not seen the lawsuit.
“Nearly two years after the horrific act of hate inside the Pulse nightclub, our community continues to mourn the 49 lives taken and provide support for all those impacted. On the morning of June 12, 2016, federal, state and local law enforcement officers and first responders put themselves in harm’s way to save as many lives as possible,” the statement said, according to ABC News.
“Our first responders are committed to the safety of this community, and they stand ready to protect and serve,” the statement said.
On the night of the mass-shooting, some officers ran into the club and pulled survivors out, then later, about 20 officers engaged in a gun battle with the shooter, CNN reported.
But officers’ efforts did not satisfy the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
"While people, unarmed, innocent were inside a club getting absolutely massacred by a crazed gunman there were a bunch of people ... with guns, with the training and capability to take that shooter out,” Solomon Radner, attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, told ABC News.
“Instead of doing their job, they worried about themselves, they stayed outside, they worried only about their own safety, knowing that people were literally getting mowed down by the dozens just a few feet away,” he said.
The lawsuit appears to be trying to draw from the failed response of Broward County Sheriff's Office to the Parkland school shooting, when deputies did not confront the active shooter.
However, the Pulse terror attack was different in that it transitioned from being an active shooting to a barricaded gunman with hostages.
After the initial gunfight, the gunman took hostages and stopped shooting. Chief John Mina said that the officers were fully prepared to re-engage if the terrorist had started shooting again.
Hostage negotiations lasted for hours with no shots fired until SWAT breached the wall with a BearCat and took the terrorist out.
The New York Times reported that some law firms have been pressuring victims to sign representation contracts in the immediate aftermath of the tragedies.
There have been accusations that once clients have signed up with a firm, they’re pressured to help recruit additional plaintiffs, and used to help market the firms services to the survivors of other mass-shooting tragedies, according to The New York Times.
Las Vegas shooting survivor Jamie Lynn Gallegos described the law firms as “relentless.”
Gallegos told the New York Times that calls from lawyers offering representation for her family, who had attended the Route 91 festival together, poured into their house from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily starting about two weeks after the attack.
Although the law prevents police officers from being held liable if they witness someone being injured or killed, Radner has argued that in the Orlando incident, the officers’ behavior “shocks the conscience,” the Orlando Sentinel reported.
ABC News reported that the suit alleged that Officer Gruler abandoned his post and allowed the shooter to enter the club and scout the location and then leave and come back with his firearms.
The lawsuit lists 30 more unidentified Orlando police officers as defendants, who it alleges remained outside the nightclub during the shooting.
The lawsuit also claims that officers unlawfully detained survivors who fled from the nightclub.