Orlando police last week said they don’t know whether the Pulse Nightclub massacre was a hate crime, a terrorist attack or both. As a result, it remains unclear if 49 murders at Pulse will be included in an upcoming Florida hate-crimes report for 2016.
“Since this is still an active investigation with the FBI, the incident has not been labeled a terrorist attack, hate crime or both,” an Orlando police spokesperson told PGN May 15 in an email. “Once the case is closed and it has been determined the attack was a hate crime, we would be the reporting agency.”
On June 12, Omar Mateen embarked on a shooting rampage inside the LGBT venue, killing 49 patrons and injuring 58 others, including an Orlando police officer.
The club was hosting Latin Night when Mateen opened fire. After a three-hour siege, Orlando police breached an exterior wall and killed the 29-year-old gunman.
Florida officials and FBI officials count hate crimes differently. If it’s decided that Mateen acted with anti-LGBT or anti-Latino bias, Florida officials would count Mateen’s 49 murders as 49 hate crimes. But the 57 attempted murders Mateen committed on Pulse patrons wouldn’t be counted as hate crimes.
The FBI’s reporting system is incident-based, thus Pulse would have been counted as one hate crime in the FBI’s upcoming hate-crimes report for 2016. But the deadline for submissions was April 24. An FBI spokesperson recently confirmed Pulse won’t be included as a hate crime in the FBI’s report.
The deadline for hate-crimes submissions for a hate-crimes report to be issued by the Florida Attorney General’s Office isn’t until July 1, at the earliest. A spokesperson for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi didn’t respond to a question about whether Mateen’s 49 murders will be included as possible hate crimes — if not actual hate crimes — in the state report.
A spokesperson for the FBI’s Tampa division declined to comment when asked if anything prevents Orlando police from conducting an independent hate-crimes probe of Mateen’s murders.
Chris Grollnek, a nationally recognized expert on active-shooter incidents, said accurate and timely hate-crimes statistics are “vital” to help ensure law-enforcement agencies effectively deploy limited resources.
Grollnek blasted Orlando Police Chief John W. Mina’s recent PowerPoint presentation about Pulse, which Mina delivered to various law-enforcement groups.
Grollnek said a 78-page online version of Mina’s talk doesn’t note the possibility that Mateen committed 49 hate crimes at Pulse. “Why is Chief Mina lecturing about the Pulse massacre, when he can’t even tell us whether 49 hate crimes took place [at Pulse]?” Grollnek posed.
He added: “There may be a reluctance on the part of Orlando police leadership to acknowledge that bias crimes occurred at Pulse because leaders don’t want to contemplate their own biases at play during the massacre.”
Mina wasn’t available for comment for this story. But in an email, an Orlando police spokesperson defended Mina’s PowerPoint presentation.
“Chief Mina attends these conferences and symposiums for dual purposes,” the email states. “Law enforcement across the nation and the world has [sic] a tradition of sharing best practices and lessons learned in large-scale incidents. This is not a new phenomena. But since the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history happened at Pulse on June 12, 2016, Chief Mina has been able to share the experience and knowledge he has gained from that with thousands of law-enforcement counterparts. At the same time, he attends these conferences and is able to sit in on other panels, presentations and discussions.”
Grollnek dubbed Mina’s presentations “premature,” in light of the FBI’s ongoing Pulse investigation.
“With 49 murders and 58 attempted murders occurring on his watch, Chief Mina is hardly in a position to be lecturing about ‘best practices’ of the Orlando police force,” Grollnek added. “One would think he’d at least wait until the FBI completes its report.”
An Orlando police spokesperson said Mina has limited involvement with the FBI’s Pulse investigation.
“Chief Mina has no role in that continuing investigation beyond providing any and all information and detail the FBI sought from him and others at the [Orlando police department]. We are not able to discuss any of those details, as this is an open FBI investigation.”
In June 2016, in response to a PGN question, an Orlando police spokesperson emphatically denied that systemic anti-LGBT bias exists within the Orlando police department.