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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Orlando Club Had Armed Security

Donald Trump said there were “no guns on the other side” in the mass shooting in Orlando and there would’ve been fewer deaths “if the bullets were going in the other direction, aimed at the guy who was just in open target practice.” But at least one person at the club fired at the shooter.

Adam Gruler, an Orlando police officer working security for Pulse nightclub that night, traded gunshots with the gunman, Omar Mateen, near the club’s entrance.

Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, made his claim during a campaign rally in Atlanta on June 15. He said the U.S. needs to accept immigrants who “don’t want to destroy us, that don’t want to go to a club where you have innocent people, and where you had no guns on the other side.” He said that someone at the club shooting back at Mateen could have prevented at least some of the deaths of the 49 people killed.

Trump, June 15: If some of those great people that were in that club that night had guns strapped to their waist or strapped to their ankle, and if the bullets were going in the other direction, aimed at this guy who was just open target practice, you would’ve had a situation folks, which would have been always horrible, but nothing like the carnage that we all as a people suffered this weekend.

He made a similar claim days before, during a June 13 interview on CNN’s “New Day.” At that point, the interviewer, CNN news anchor Alisyn Camerota, told Trump that an armed security guard was at the scene of the shooting.

Trump, June 13: Gun owners even more than ever, need to be able to protect themselves. And by the way, if you had some guns in that club the night that this took place, if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had.

If people in that room had guns with the bullets flying in the opposite direction right at him …

Camerota: But there was. But Mr. Trump, there was an armed security — there was an armed security guard.

Trump: … right at his head, you wouldn’t have had the same tragedy that you ended up having. And nobody even knows how bad that tragedy is, because I think probably the numbers will get bigger and bigger and worse and worse. I hear the injured are so gravely injured.

But if you had guns in that room, if you had — even if you had a number of people having them strapped to their ankle or strapped to their waist, where bullets could have flown in the other direction right at him, you wouldn’t have had the same kind of a tragedy.

Trump either ignored Camerota or didn’t hear her before her satellite feed cut out.

Gruler, a 15-year veteran of the Orlando Police Department, was at the club, in uniform, working security. He traded gunfire with Mateen before the gunman made his way further into the club. That’s according to the Orlando Police Department.

OPD statement, June 12: On June 12, 2016, just after 2 a.m., an Orlando Police Officer working extra duty at the Pulse Nightclub, located at 1912 S. Orange Ave., responded to shots fired. Our officer engaged in a gun battle with that suspect and the suspect went deeper into the club where more shots were fired. The incident then turned into a hostage situation.

In addition, news reports said that two of the responding officers, who were nearby and arrived at the scene not long after, also fired at Mateen before he retreated to a club bathroom with hostages. That was a few hours before police used an armored vehicle to rescue hostages from the bathroom, and then shot and killed Mateen.

The Orlando Sentinel described the shootout between the officers and Mateen:

Orlando Sentinel, June 13: It was just after 2 a.m. Sunday. Gruler ran toward the entrance after hearing the shots.

He was met by gunman Omar Mateen. Armed with a .223 caliber AR type rifle and a 9mm semiautomatic pistol, Mateen started exchanging gunfire with the officer.

Gruler quickly realized he was outgunned and called for backup. Gruler retreated and Mateen ran further inside the club.

Lt. Scott Smith and Sgt. Jeffrey Backhaus arrived a couple minutes later and rushed into the club. There was another flurry of shots between them and Mateen.

Trump is free to argue that the situation might have turned out differently had more people inside the club been armed. However, Trump’s statement that there were “no guns on the other side” is wrong. There was at least one armed person on site, a veteran police officer working security, who shot at the suspected gunman.