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Rick Scott to feds: Release the Orlando 911 tapes

Update: Later Monday, the Justice Department released a full text of one of the shooter’s calls, saying it wanted to “provide the highest level of transparency possible under the circumstances.” Click here for the statement and transcript.


Gov. Rick Scott Monday called on federal authorities to release more from the 911 calls made by the Orlando shooter.

But an open government expert said Scott should save the bully pulpit talk for local law enforcement, who could release the same information.

Scott, who has been in Orlando since the early Sunday mass shooting, spoke with Fox News Channel‘s Bill Hemmer.

“I have gone to funerals, I’ve sat down and cried with the parents,” Scott said. “I’ve gone and visited individuals in the hospitals. They’re grieving. Now, they want answers. If it was my family, I would want answers, and you would too.

“We all would like answers,” the governor added, saying U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch “should release everything that doesn’t impact the investigation.”

“It doesn’t make any sense to me why you wouldn’t release the entire transcript,” Scott told Hemmer.

The FBI did release a printed, partial transcript of the conversations between the gunman within the Pulse gay nightclub and Orlando police negotiators, Lynch said.

Forty-nine people were killed, dozens more were seriously hurt, and the victims were predominantly Hispanic because it was “Latin night” at the club.

Orlando gunman Omar Mateen spoke in Arabic to a 911 dispatcher, identified himself an Islamic soldier and demanded to a crisis negotiator that the U.S. “stop bombing Syria and Iraq,” according to some material released by the FBI.

The partial transcripts were part of three conversations Mateen had with police during the shooting, the worst in modern U.S. history.

Federal investigators have the same 911 audio as Orlando police, who still are subject to state public records law, said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, an open-government watchdog.

She explained local and state government agencies “can’t abdicate their responsibilities under the public records law” by giving copies of records, including 911 recordings, to the federal government.

So far, local police have claimed certain audio and transcripts are exempt from disclosure, as “active criminal investigative information.

Petersen said they also have claimed an exemption related to a 2011 law that shields any “photograph or video or audio recording that depicts or records the killing of a person.”

That was modeled on another law passed after NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt was killed in a 2001 crash during the Daytona 500. That law blocked autopsy photos from disclosure.

The other exemption, however, was recently changed to cover only “the killing of a law enforcement officer who was acting in accordance with his or her official duties.”

That change does not go into effect until Oct. 1.

This post contains material from The Associated Press, reprinted with permission. 

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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