Tag Archives: negotiators

Audio captures police strategizing about Pulse shooter

Police negotiators talking to the Orlando nightclub gunman at first weren’t sure if the person they had on the phone was actually in the Pulse nightclub, according to audio recordings.

The recordings between police negotiators and shooter Omar Mateen don’t stray from transcripts of conversations released previously by the city of Orlando.

But they do capture police officials strategizing among themselves about how to talk to Mateen, who hung up several times during the three-hour standoff at the gay nightclub.

Circuit Judge Margaret Schreiber ruled this week that Mateen’s calls should be made public.

But she won’t rule on releasing other 911 calls from the mass shooting until she has listened to them.

More than two dozen news groups, including The Associated Press, have been fighting the city in court over the release of more than 600 calls dealing with the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The city has released about two-thirds of the calls but is still withholding the 232 calls that lawyers for the city say depict suffering or killing and are exempt from Florida’s public records laws.

The media groups have argued that the city’s application of the exemption is too broad and that the 911 calls will help the public evaluate the police response to the shooting at the gay nightclub.

In one of the calls released, a police official can be heard early on saying he’s not convinced the person on the call is in the club.

At another point, the lead police negotiator, named “Andy,” said, “He sounds like he is in a very sterile environment, like he’s at a home or an apartment.”

But another police official said Mateen could be in an office or bathroom.

The recordings also show how the negotiators were feeling out whether they had accurately identified the suspect.

“We called him Omar,” said Andy, who was then interrupted by another police official who says, “He didn’t deny it.”

Between calls, they mulled over what Mateen had told them, such as his refusal to answer if he had an accomplice.

They discussed Mateen’s claims that he was wearing a vest and that he had explosives in a car outside the nightclub. He wasn’t wearing a bomb vest and there were no explosives in a car, but police officials didn’t know that at the time.

“He said the bombs are in a car in the parking lot. He’s not confirming anything,” a police official can be heard saying in the background as Andy implores Mateen to respond.

Andy tells another police official that Mateen had claimed to be wearing a vest but he didn’t know what type.

“A dress vest. A bulletproof vest, or a bomb vest. That’s all I got. We questioned him on it and he shut down,” the police negotiator said.

The judge allowed family members of the 49 patrons who died to testify about whether they wanted the remaining 911 calls made public. Some opposed the release while others were OK with the transcript being made public.

“It would be extremely difficult for family and friends to listen to these calls,” said Jessica Silva, whose brother, Juan Rivera Velazquez, died with his partner in Pulse. “Just listening to one of the calls … We can recognize voices. Just listening to them screaming … How are we going to feel?”

The FBI has offered no indication of when the probe into the shooting that also left 53 people seriously wounded will be done.

An FBI spokeswoman didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.

Aileen Carillo, whose brother, Simon Adrian Carillo Fernandez, died in the nightclub, said she would like to listen to the calls to help her understand what happened, but didn’t want them to be made public.

“I would like to know what happened. We haven’t really heard what happened. We are unaware of the facts,” Carillo said on the witness stand through a Spanish interpreter.

Deal elusive in Milwaukee County transit labor dispute

Weeks after Milwaukee County union bus drivers went on a three-day strike, both sides remain far apart as contract talks are set to resume this week, according to a published report.

The early July strike disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of county residents who rely on buses. But more than three weeks after the walkout, the Milwaukee County Transit System and the union representing its drivers and mechanics appear no closer to reaching a new contract, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

On Friday, MCTS Managing Director Dan Boehm said there was a gap of $10 million in the offers and counteroffers from the two sides the last time they met.

President James Macon of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 said at the time of the strike that the impasse was “not about money.” But in a recent interview, he said the company can afford to pay higher wages than it is offering.

At recent union rallies Macon has identified transit system plans to hire part-time drivers and impose higher health insurance costs as primary reasons for the union’s rejection of the latest offer.

Boehm said the company’s June 26 offer, rejected by union members, and last-minute concessions offered at a June 30 mediation session in an unsuccessful bid to avert a strike are still the best financial package it can offer.

The old contract ended March 31. The 750 drivers and 150 mechanics represented by the union have been working without a contract since the last extension ended June 29.

Macon would not say whether he would urge his members to walk out a second time if no agreement is reached. Referring to MCTS, he said “they don’t have to worry about it if they bring in a fair contract.”

In its contract offer, MCTS signaled its intention to begin hiring part-time drivers in an attempt to reduce high costs of overtime regularly paid to drivers. Bus operators work an average of eight hours of overtime a week, officials said.

But the union is opposed to hiring part-time drivers because it would take many overtime hours away from those drivers who want them, Macon said.