Almost two years after a massacre at an Orlando nightclub left 49 people dead and 53 injured, some of the surviving victims were filing a lawsuit in federal court Thursday saying the city and police didn’t do enough to try to stop the shooter.
More than 35 victims have signed on as plaintiffs, accusing the city and its officers violated the Constitutional rights of those who were injured and killed on June 12, 2016, when Omar Mateen opened fire at Pulse. Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group during a three-hour standoff before he was killed in a shootout with police.
Plaintiffs contend that officers should have more aggressively confronted Mateen to prevent mass casualties. The lawsuit names Orlando Police Department Officer Adam Gruler, who worked an extra-duty shift at the nightclub that evening. The lawsuit says that Gruler “abandoned his post” and, during that time, Mateen walked in, looked around, walked out to retrieve weapons and returned to the club.
Gruler fired at Mateen from two spots outside the club after the shooting began. Officials estimated Mateen fired more than 200 rounds in less than five minutes.
Gruler was later hailed as a hero. He was honored by the city and invited to President Trump’s State of the Union speech.
The suit will also list another 30 unnamed officers, some for not capturing the shooter and others for rounding up uninjured survivors and bringing them to Orlando police headquarters for interviews.
“I believe victims of the Pulse shooting deserve better. We deserved better,” victim Keinon Carter said during the news conference Thursday. “We deserved to be rescued sooner by law enforcement.”
The suit also says that officials didn’t allow survivors to use their phones once police had secured the club.
“The detainees were not permitted to use their phones, contact their loved ones, or leave. They were detained as though they were criminals, by these defendants despite there being not a shred of evidence nor any lawful basis to suspect that any of the detainees had committed a crime,” attorneys wrote in the court document.
In a statement, Orlando police and the city of Orlando said they haven’t seen the lawsuit.
“We can’t comment on the substance of the litigation,” 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.”
The suit calls for additional training and resources, a jury trial and an undetermined monetary judgment.