ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Patrons trapped in an Orlando nightclub as a gunman carried out the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history begged 911 operators to send help in audio recordings released Wednesday.
The 150 or so calls were the last batch of recordings made public by the city after a court fight with media companies, and they capture patrons desperately waiting for first responders to help them. More than 300 people were in the club when gunman Omar Mateen opened fire last June. Forty-nine patrons were killed and 53 others were seriously injured.
“Please help us. It has been an hour,” whispers a 23-year-old man trapped in a dressing room with three others at the Pulse nightclub.
The operators repeatedly tell the trapped patrons that help is on the way but that there are a lot of people to rescue in the club, as well as many hiding places.
Even though an off-duty officer was working at the Pulse nightclub and other officers responded within minutes, the standoff with Mateen lasted more than three hours while dozens of patrons were trapped inside. During that time, patrons told 911 operators that the conditions of the wounded were getting worse.
“Why isn’t anyone coming to get us in the bathroom? There’s two people in here who are about to die, there are four already dead. Somebody needs to come in here now,” a woman angrily says to the operator almost two and a half hours into the standoff. “These two people are going to bleed out.”
Officers found some trapped patrons comparatively quickly. About nine people hiding in another dressing room and a half-dozen others in an office were rescued within a half-hour after the standoff started.
One man whispered to an operator that he was hiding in the bathroom under the body of a dead man. A trapped patron’s sister told an operator her mother was texting with her brother trapped in the bathroom under a pile of bodies. In that call, the operator indicates that two hours into the standoff authorities were still trying to figure out what Mateen was wearing so officers wouldn’t mistake a patron for him.
When the man in the first dressing room repeatedly tells the operator that the club has a back entrance officers should use, the operator asks him if he can get to it. The man says, “Yes, but I can’t go. … I’m scared.”
After almost an hour of talking to the 911 operator, he asks if the call is being recorded and then says, “I want my family to know that I love them.”
The 911 operator tells him, “We are doing our best to get you to your family.”
A short time later, the man says “Oh, my God” over again, and voices in the background can be heard saying, “Up, up, up, up.” After several moments, and more than an hour and a half after the standoff started, the man says to the operator, “Sir, the cops got us out. Thank you so much. I appreciate everything.”