‘If you’re alive, raise your hand’: Report details police activity inside Pulse

A newly released report details the Orlando Police Department’s activity and involvement during the Pulse nightclub massacre on June 12 and the days that followed, WKMG reports.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina presented the 78-slide PowerPoint to police groups across the globe, analyzing what the agency did well and what could have been done differently.

Within the first three hours of the attack on Pulse, which left 49 people dead and another 53 injured, 300 law enforcement officers swarmed the scene.

The rampage began at 2:02 a.m., just as patrons were preparing to end their night. Gunman Omar Mateen approached the night club’s dance floor and fired his assault rifle. The barrage of bullets left 20 people dead on the dance floor and near the stage area, the report said.

A detective who was at the club when the shooting began fired several rounds at Mateen and radioed for help. The first backup officer arrived one minute and 20 seconds later. 

That same detective fired at Mateen again at 2:05 a.m. The successions of gunshots within the club stopped.

Police entered the bar at 2:06 a.m., just in time to see Mateen running from the dance floor to the bathroom, where he spent hours holed up with hostages, pledging his allegiance to ISIS and claiming he had explosives in calls made to 911 operators.

Efforts to rescue the victims began at 2:08 a.m., exactly six minutes and eight seconds after the mass shooting began.

By 2:15 a.m., first responders make their way to the dance floor, the area where the most victims died.

“So many victims were on the ground. One officer is heard saying, ‘If you’re alive, raise your hand,'” the report raid.

[PICTURES: Evidence photos from inside Pulse]

Seven of those victims were carried out alive. 

All of the critically injured victims were out of the club by 2:35 a.m., except for those being held hostage in the west side of the club, eight people hiding in the west dressing room and four dancers in the north dressing room.

Along with the 20 who died on the dance floor, nine died in the northwest bathroom, four died in the southwest bathroom, three died on the stage, one died in the front lobby and one died on the patio.

Another 11 victims died after being rescued from the club: nine at Orlando Health and two at a triage area across from the club.

The Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office completed those autopsies within 72 hours.

It was at 5:27 a.m., three hours and five minutes into the ordeal, that all the remaining victims were rescued from the club.

By that point, Mateen had died in a gunfight with SWAT members at 5:15 a.m., feet from where he’d held terrified and wounded hostages for hours.

Explosives were used to breach the club at 5:02 a.m. so victims in the south bathroom could be rescued. The explosion didn’t fully breach the wall, so an armored vehicle was used. 

The explosion to breach the wall was one area OPD thought it could improve because the Orlando Fire Department, which was one of 27 agencies that responded that night, did not know the explosion was planned, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Better coordination with fire officials was one of the main criticisms OPD had of its efforts. The department also said providing the names of involved officers to the media created problems because they were bombarded with interview requests, the newspaper reports.

Mina also told the newspaper he doesn’t know if any victims were hit by friendly fire, a question the public has been left pondering in the wake of the attack.

The FBI followed more than 1,600 leads, conducted 500 interviews, collected 950 pieces of evidence, including 380 from the scene, issued 300 subpoenas and spent more than $450,000 on victim witness assistance funds during the investigation that followed.

Along with the precise details and timeline, the report also includes body camera images and crime scene photos. The full presentation is embedded at the top of this story. 

 

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South Florida fugitive arrested after 26 years at large

A South Florida fugitive who had been on the run for 26 years was arrested Wednesday in central Florida.

Gustavo Falcon was arrested by U.S. marshals as he and his wife were leaving their Kissimmee home on their bicycles, U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Barry Golden told Local 10 News.

“They literally cornered him at an intersection and blocked him in with vehicles,” Golden said. 

Falcon was indicted in 1991 for trafficking cocaine from Colombia to South Florida.

Records show that an arrest warrant was issued on April 10, 1991 for Falcon and his brother Augusto “Willie” Falcon, along with eight others.

According to the indictment, the defendants trafficked drugs from at least as early as January 1978.

Golden said deputy marshals discovered that Falcon, his wife and children were living in Kissimmee and using fraudulent driver’s licenses. He said they traced Falcon’s home to Kissimmee after Falcon was involved in a car crash in 2013.

Golden said Falcon had been using the name Louis Reiss.

“We delegated every resource we had to tracking down that address, trying to find out exactly where he was living and bring him back to justice,” Golden said.

He said a team of federal agents from South Florida traveled to the Orlando area to make the arrest.

The 1991 indictment tells the story of the “Cocaine Cowboys,” which was led by Falcon’s brother, Willie, and his high school buddy Sal Magluta.

Authorities said 75 tons of  cocaine was smuggled into the U.S. over 13 years, generating more than $2 billion in cash and assets for the defendants.

Authorities said they were living the high-life while Miami deteriorated into violent drug wars. Their eventual road to justice included money laundering, witness murders and jury tampering, authorities said. 

Filmmaker Billy Corben is responsible for the Cocaine Cowboys documentary, and is currently shooting a third docuseries, “Los Muchachos,” about Willie Falcon and Magluta.

“I think when the documentary came out, it not only became a household term, but people also had accepted the thesis of the movie, which was (that) narco dollars generated in that era helped essentially t build the foundation of Miami as we know it and love it today,” Corben said.

Gustavo Falcon made his first appearance in federal court in Orlando and is expected to be transferred to a jail in South Florida.

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Floridians among worst driving and phone use offenders in U.S.

If Florida drivers cared as much about their steering wheels as they do their phones, the state would be a much safer place to drive.

A new study claims Floridians rank 49th in the U.S. when it comes to drivers who use their phones behind the wheel.

As a quick refresher, there are only 50 states.

In the safe driving report conducted by the insurance EverQuote, the Sunshine State ranked just behind Louisiana for drivers who have used a phone while in a moving vehicle.

According to the study, a whopping 92 percent of all U.S. drivers have used a phone while behind the wheel.

The data used in the study was gathered by the EverDrive app which assigns scores based on driving abilities.

It appears the knuckleheadedness of Florida drivers is a geographical thing as southerners are far more inclined to use their phones and drive. The study shows Southern drivers used their phones 41 percent of the time while driving, compared to other regions of the country which didn’t top 37 percent.

 

 

 

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Scott declares state of emergency in Florida because of brush fire threat

Gov. Rick Scott has issued a state of emergency in Florida because of the recent brush fires and abnormally dry conditions that are conducive to the increased threat of more brush fires this year.

The governor’s executive order Tuesday authorizes the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management to activate the state’s comprehensive emergency management plan to mitigate the threat. It also seeks direct assistance from the federal government and calls for the activation of the Florida National Guard.

“Much of central and South Florida are approaching drought-like conditions, and the chances for wildfires are continuing to increase with hotter temperatures and low rainfall,” Scott said in a statement. “This may only get worse as we enter the hotter summer months, and it is crucial that we take every action right now to be prepared.”

Scott said there are more than 100 active wildfires across more than 20,000 acres in Florida.

A brush fire that burned last week in Broward County lasted several days and scorched about 6,800 acres.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said this has been the most active year for wildfires since 2011.

“It is incredibly important that wildfire response is swift and deliberate, and this state of emergency will make it easier for our state, regional and local agencies to quickly work together to protect our families, visitors and communities,” Scott said.

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South Florida man wanted by FBI in alleged mortgage fraud scheme

A South Florida man is wanted by the FBI for his alleged involvement in a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme that operated between Tampa and Miami.

The FBI said Jaime Jesus Sola Avila is accused of recruiting unqualified buyers to purchase condominiums under fraudulent pretenses. The FBI also alleges that Avila recruited co-conspirators to falsify documents that allowed unqualified buyers to get approved for the mortgages.

A federal arrest warrant for Avila was issued in January, but the FBI said he has evaded arrest. He is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud.

The FBI said the mortgage fraud scheme operated between Miami, Tampa and Largo in 2007 and 2008.

Avila, who is a felon, most recently lived in Doral and has ties to the Westchester area.

Anyone with information as to Avila’s whereabouts is asked to call the FBI office in South Florida at 754-703-2000.

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Body of missing kayaker found, Coast Guard says

The United States Coast Guard said it found the body of a missing kayaker whose empty craft was last seen Saturday morning off southwest Florida.

Coast Guard officials were alerted by local deputies Saturday morning that 29-year-old Justin Furman had gone missing after camping at Punta Rassa with a group of friends. He left the group Friday night to kayak and fish along the beach.

Friends said he didn’t have a life jacket, cellphone or emergency equipment in the kayak.

The News-Press reported Furman’s kayak was found empty Saturday morning.

No other details were immediately released.

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