News & Politics

FBI Wants Agencies Involved with Orlando Shooting Investigation to Deny Public Records Requests

Law enforcement officials gather outside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando (AP Photo/David Goldman)

According to officials, the FBI has asked the law enforcement agencies involved with the massacre at Orlando night club “Pulse” to deny public release of the associated records.

A June 20 letter from the FBI, attached to the City or Orlando’s lawsuit over withholding 911 calls and other records from 25 media outlets including the Orlando Sentinel, was also sent to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office with instructions pertaining to how they should respond to records requests.

The letter requests that agencies deny inquiries and directs departments to “immediately notify the FBI of any requests your agency received” so “the FBI can seek to prevent disclosure through appropriate channels, as necessary.”

Appropriate channels? Like this?

The Orlando Sentinel received a copy of the FBI’s letter in response to a records request from the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.

Two dozen media outlets have sued the city of Orlando “to gain access to 603 calls made to Orlando emergency lines during the Pulse massacre and recording of Omar Mateen talking to Orlando Police. SWAT members killed Mateen June 12 in a shootout following a 3-hour hostage situation.”

An attorney for the city of Orlando says the “the dispute is really between the FBI and the media.”

In the letter, the FBI says they are concerned releasing records would “adversely affect our ability to effectively investigate the shooting and bring the matter to resolution.” They also say the records could endanger witnesses and law enforcement officers involved in the case.

Paul Wysopal, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Tampa field office, signed the letter. He refused comment Wednesday.

The media wants release of the records as there is “a strong public interest in fully evaluating how first responders and police reacted during the most critical phases of this incredible tragedy,” according to the lawsuit.  The city said it has not released the requested records out of respect for the victims and at the “direction of the FBI.”

The FBI has refused to release records related to the shooting to the Orlando Sentinel.