Knight News has joined a group of local and national media outlets–including the Orlando Sentinel, Associated Press and New York Times–in a lawsuit against the City of Orlando related to the release of 911 calls made during the Pulse shooting.
After the tragic massacre that left 49 victims dead and 53 wounded at Pulse early in the morning of June 12, several media outlets requested the release of 911 calls made by victims inside Pulse, 911 calls made by the shooter, and dispatch/scanner communication between departments responding to the shooting.
According to the complaint, the public’s interest in hearing these recordings is the evaluation of the emergency response during the shooting, and to “scrutinize and evaluate government behavior.”
“In other words, to realize the central goal in open government laws,” the complaint states.
The City responded by citing laws relating to the release of material during active investigations, and laws prohibiting the release of material which depicts the “killing of a person.”
However, as the media points out, these exemptions to the release of public records are meant to be “narrowly construed”, meaning the recordings have to strictly meet the requirements of Florida law to be exempt from release. By law, the City is only required to redact the portions which explicitly depict the sounds of a person dying.
As the complaint states, the government reported that no gunfire was reported during a three-hour standoff with the gunman. Therefore, phone calls made by the victims and shooter during that time-frame could not depict the “killing of a person.”
The complaint also states there is no preconceived notion that first responders acted improperly during the response to Pulse. If anything, these recordings could serve to shine a light on the heroic manner in which emergency personnel responded on that tragic day.