The decision by Orlando, Fla., police to wait nearly three hours before forcing their way into the Pulse nightclub where gunman Omar Mateen had massacred 49 was criticized as out of step with military guidelines for dealing with potential weapons of mass destruction.
Mateen, according to multiple reports, had a “suspicious device” on him as well as an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a Glock handgun.
Chris Grollnek, a former entry team member for the SWAT unit in McKinney, Texas, who runs a national active shooter training program, told the Herald the established priority in such a situation is “to get in and stop the shooter” to prevent wider collateral damage of a bomb blast.
“The military standard according to (former CIA Director) Gen. (David) Petraeus and counterinsur-gency operations for suicide bombers is to neutralize the bomber, period. There is no if, and, or but,” Grollnek said. “The suspect is the No. 1 mitigating factor for safety — the safety of everyone else is off the table. You go neutralize the shooter. This is not my opinion, this is national standards.”
Grollnek praised the Orlando SWAT team officers themselves as “some of the best in the country,” but said they appeared hamstrung by risk-averse commanders.
“It’s a very hard decision, but somebody has tobe willing to make the decision, or they need a new job,” Grollnek said.
Police yesterday detailed the harrowing hours that elapsed between Mateen opening fire on his victims and being shot dead by SWAT officers, revealing prolonged hostage negotiations while Mateen was barricaded with hostages in a bathroom.
The shooting started at 2 a.m. and Mateen was shot dead at 5 a.m.
“There was talk about bomb vests, about explosives throughout, and then there were statements made about imminent loss of life, so that’s why I made the decision to make the entry at that time,” Orlando police Chief John Mina told assembled media at the site of Sunday morning’s massacre at the gay nightclub.
Mina said, “There was a timeline given” by Mateen just before SWAT officers moved to gain entry, first using an explosive, and then an armored vehicle, to penetrate a wall.
Mina said “many, many lives” were saved by the decision. Along with patrons, Mateen exited the club through the opening police created, and was shot dead after an exchange of gunfire with eight or nine SWAT officers, Mina said.
Mina said Mateen was barricaded in a bathroom with four or five hostages,with another 15 to 20 patrons trapped in another bathroom, and was communicating with negotiators via phone.
Mina said police do not believe any more shots were fired after hostage negotiations began with Mateen.
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