ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Florida's state police agency says it did many things right in responding to a 2016 mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, but could have done better at identifying victims and notifying their surviving relatives, according to an internal review released Friday.
The report is a self-review of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's response to the massacre, although the Orlando Police Department was the primary responding agency. A separate review of the Orlando Police Department's response is still ongoing.
The state agency lacked a protocol for identifying victims, notifying their families and returning belongings to families, even though it had the help of the medical examiner's office, according to the review. Victims' relatives gathered at a hospital at first, then were moved to a nearby hotel and then were instructed to go to a nearby senior center.
"When FDLE agents arrived at the hotel for next of kin notification, they encountered chaos and no plan of action for the operational processes," said the report, which recommends creating a protocol for identifying victims and next-of-kin notification.
The report says there also was a shortage of victim advocates and chaplains to help with the notifications and it recommends creating an emergency list of advocates and chaplains for the future. Family members also became ill when receiving the news and the report recommends having paramedics on standby when agents are passing on the bad news.
The Florida agency's report also says in the rush to get to the scene, agents didn't bring common equipment. It recommends having "go-bags" with equipment that agents can take for quick deployment.
The review also says agents relied on their cellphones rather than radios to communicate since they didn't know how to operate their own agency's radios, and it recommends annual training on radios. The review also said federal and state agents sometimes duplicated their investigative leads and that a process should be implemented to eliminate the duplication when it arises.
The agency praises itself in international communications, coordinating its agents quickly to the response, its communications with federal and local law enforcement agencies and also providing intelligence analysts to the investigation.
The Orlando Sentinel first reported on the review
Forty-nine people were killed in the June 12, 2016, massacre at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Gunman Omar Mateen, who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group during a three-hour standoff, was killed in a shootout with police officers.
His wife, Noor Salman, has been charged with obstructing the investigating and aiding and abetting her husband. She has pleaded not guilty and her trial is set for next March in federal court.