Survivors and family members of the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre 2 years ago are suing the city of Orlando and 31 police officers who responded to the scene. The June 2016 shooting left 49 people dead and 58 wounded.
Wigberto Capo, whose brother Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo was killed in the shooting, wonders what would have happened if officers had used their training and acted more quickly.
“What if the Orlando police officers who responded to the shooting were aggressive with their plan to rescue victims and hostages and kill the shooter?” he told reporters Thursday. “Would my brother still be alive?”
Officer Adam Gruler and 30 unnamed police officers, as well as the city of Orlando have been accused of violating the civil rights of the club’s patrons, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in US District Court for the Middle District of Florida, reported ABC News.
Gruler was singled out in the lawsuit, which asys he “was at Pulse at all pertinent times and was charged with providing security to Pulse. Instead, he abandoned his post, thereby allowing [the] shooter to not only enter the club once to scout out the area and make sure nobody could stop him, but to then leave Pulse, retrieve his firearms, and return to execute his sinister plan to kill people.”
The lawsuit says some officers stayed outside the club as the massacre took place and others, rather than try to stop the killer, detained uninjured survivors fleeing the gunfire, preventing them from using heir phones to contact loved ones.
“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.
Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others in June 2016 when he opened fire at the Orlando nightclub. Gruler, who worked extra duty as security for Pulse, heard gunshots and engaged in a gunbattle with Mateen after the shooting began, police said.
Gruler got in a gun battle with shooter Omar Mateen shortly after Mateen started shooting. Gruler left the club to call for backup when he did not think he could take out the gunman, according to police.
According to the lawsuit, Gruler “abandoned his post” and “demonstrated a lack of concern for the dozens of patrons in the club,” when he did this.
The city and police department said in a joint statement that they have not seen and have not been served with the lawsuit, and therefore cannot comment.
“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,” the statement said. “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. Our first responders are committed to the safety of this community, and they stand ready to protect and serve.”
Police said some officers did rush into the club and extracted survivors, and others eventually exchanged shots with the gunman.
According to the lawsuit, about 20 officers engaged the 1 shooter until he retreated to a restroom with hostages. Then the officers left the building.
“Finally, approximately three hours later, after allowing the 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 suit said.
Survivors are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, but no exact amount is listed in the lawsuit.