Since Tuesday the Medical Examiner Has Known How Many Orlando Victims Were Killed by Cops

As I noted in another post, on Monday, Orlando’s police chief said that it was possible that some law enforcement officers — that might include the four who initially responded to Omar Mateen or the nine SWAT team members who later did — had (accidentally) shot Pulse patrons.

Monday, Orlando Police Chief John Mina and other law enforcement officers offered new details about the shooting, including the possibility that some victims may have been killed by officers trying to save them.

“I will say this, that’s all part of the investigation,” Mina said. “But I will say when our SWAT officers, about eight or nine officers, opened fire, the backdrop was a concrete wall, and they were being fired upon.”

A law enforcement source close to the investigation who asked not to be named said a crowd of up to 300 people and the complex layout of the dance club may have resulted in some patrons being struck by gunfire from officers.

Mina said his decision to enter the club with such violence was tough. “It was a hard decision to make, but it was the right decision,” he said. “Our No. 1 priority is on saving lives, and it was the right decision to make.”

[snip]

An off-duty police officer working at the club Sunday night was investigating an underage drinker outside when he heard gunshots inside, according to the law enforcement source. The off-duty officer ran inside the club and traded gunfire with Mateen, backed up soon by three other police officers, the source said.

The officers fired at Mateen, who retreated into a bathroom toward the rear of the club.

“Those additional officers made entry while the suspect was shooting,” Mina said. “They forced him to stop shooting and retreat to the bathroom where we believe he had several hostages.”

I just want to clarify the timing of this statement. The medical examiner’s office released a statement Thursday confirming that it had, as planned, completed all the autopsies by Tuesday afternoon. But because of the ongoing investigation, autopsy reports (like Mateen’s 911 calls and all other public records) will not be released at this time.

  • Autopsies are required to be conducted in all cases of homicide. The Medical Examiner (ME) completed all autopsies on Tuesday afternoon, June 14.
  • This is an active criminal investigation, therefore, the autopsy results and any reports generated will not be released at this time. This includes funeral home information.
  • As of June 16 afternoon, all of the 49 victims have been released to a funeral home.

According to the NYT, the office conducted 18 of the autopsies on Tuesday, which happened to be the day the city council confirmed the appointment medical examiner Dr. Joshua Stephany had held in interim form for a year.

Although he had been filling in for about a year, Dr. Stephany was officially made Orange County’s chief medical examiner two days after the slaughter at Pulse. On his first real day on the job, his office completed 18 autopsies. He said he performed at least seven of the 49 autopsies. The exact number he is not certain of.

That would say the remainder — 31 victims — would have been done on Sunday and Monday. Perhaps they weren’t all done by the time Mina made his statement, but a significant portion had to have been.

So when he said that some of the victims might have been killed by the cops, he presumably knew specific numbers to that point. The medical examiner has had a final count of how many victims were killed in the cross-fire since Tuesday.

None of that minimizes Mateen’s guilt for setting off the melee. It just is a data point that the cops know, but aren’t yet revealing, how many people the cross-fire killed.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

6 replies
  1. Phil Perspective says:

    It will certainly be interesting to find out what all happened. Do we know whether the cops killed Mateen or did he kill himself when the SWAT team finally made their entrance?

  2. lefty665 says:

    Follow up news story. Medical Examiner says he has no idea if any victims were shot by police, nor is there any way to tell. So much for autopsy information.
    .
    Did Mateen use his pistol? Was it the same caliber and load as the cops? Since the initial responders came from different police forces, were they armed with the same pistols/ammunition? Was SWAT armed with same caliber/configuration rifles with similar loads as Mateen? What kind of pistols/ammunition was SWAT equipped with? Did they use their hand guns?
    .
    Although at least some of that information was available to the Medical Examiner, it does not seem we can look to him for any answers about who shot who.
    .
    Don’t suppose we’ll get any answers about how many wounded people bled to death in the several hour standoff either.
    .
    It was a hell of a tough situation. The cops deserve considerable leeway before criticizing decisions made under severe stress. BUT, after the fact suppression of information about what actually happened puts authorities on the wrong side of the law. How can we tell them from Mateen if not by their behavior?

  3. lefty665 says:

    EW, roughly 1/3 of the way down the article:
    “Stephany said his office did not collect information on whether any victims were killed by police gunfire.
    “There would be no way for me to tell if they were shot by police or the shooter,” Stephany said. “The same gun can hold different kinds of projectiles. There are too many variables. I am not going to speculate.””
    .
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/06/19/what-we-still-dont-know-about-the-orlando-shooting-rampage/?utm_term=.9a198d0845c6

  4. lefty665 says:

    “The same gun can hold different kinds of projectiles.” Seems we can infer from this that there were different wounds but from guns with the same chambering. For long guns that’s 8 SWATs all likely firing the same rounds from similar rifles and Mateen shooting whatever he had. The first responding cops were likely firing pistols.
    .
    Stephany knows what the SWATs were shooting. He also has what was left in Mateen’s magazines, so he knows what was in them. If there were people killed or wounded by different rifle rounds, as we can infer from his statement, then victims were highly likely shot by cops. Stephany’s refusal to disclose his professional opinion strongly implies that was the case.
    .
    Pistols may vary more, but again are consistent for each shooter. Individual cops and Mateen seem likely to have been shooting 9mm or .40 caliber pistols. SWATs may have something a little more exotic like .357 Sig or hotter, I haven’t kept up with those trends in recent years. All pistol rounds from anything other than what Mateen was shooting by definition came from cops. Stephany knows that answer too. He may not be able to conclusively identify who shot each victim, but he can figure out which were not Mateen.
    .
    How many of the dead and wounded were hit by friendly fire? How many of the dead succumbed to loss of blood after three hours or more of standoff? Stephany may not have all the answers, but if he’s competent he’s got a pretty good idea.
    .
    Placing all the victims at Mateen’s feet is convenient, and certainly in his absence all would be alive or unwounded today. OTOH, if authorities have killed and wounded people, as seems highly likely, we should know that too.

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