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Media outlets filing lawsuits for release of Pulse shooting 911 calls, police transmissions

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FILE - In this June 12, 2016 file photo, law enforcement officials work at the Pulse nightclub following a fatal shooting, in Orlando, Fla. Two government officials familiar with the Orlando shooting say FBI investigators have so far not turned up persuasive evidence that the gunman was pursuing gay relationships.  (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
FILE – In this June 12, 2016 file photo, law enforcement officials work at the Pulse nightclub following a fatal shooting, in Orlando, Fla. Two government officials familiar with the Orlando shooting say FBI investigators have so far not turned up persuasive evidence that the gunman was pursuing gay relationships. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, File)

The City of Orlando and multiple news outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel, turned to the courts Thursday with questions over public records associated with the Pulse Orlando nightclub shooting.

The Sentinel and 24 other outlets, including leading national publications, are suing the city to release hundreds of 911 calls made June 12 about the massacre and radio communication between first responders.

The action comes on the same day the city filed a lawsuit with the same circuit court, asking a judge to determine which records must be released in accordance with state law. The Associated Press is named as the sole defendant in the city’s case.

Lawyers for the media outlets argue the records should be released because there is “a strong public interest in fully evaluating how first responders and police reacted during the most critical phases of this incredible tragedy,” the lawsuit states.

The media lawsuit also challenges the exemption city officials have relied on for denying the records request — the recordings could depict people being killed and reveal personal information of emergency officials — as not applicable because there is “good cause” to release them.

The city, in its filing, said it has not released all records “out of respect for the Pulse shooting victims and the families” and at the “direction of the FBI.”

Some of the material has been transcribed for an active investigation by the FBI, which would also be exempt under Florida’s broad public records law.

After releasing the transcript of a 50-second 911 call gunman Omar Mateen made from inside Pulse, the FBI asked the city to “immediately” notify the FBI of any public records requests and withhold the records under the “active investigation” statute.

Mateen spoke for 28 more minutes with crisis negotiators. Those records have also been withheld.

In another recent high-profile case, the 911 calls have also been withheld from the public in the shooting death case of Christina Grimmie.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

echerney@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5735

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(c)2016 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com

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