During a televised meeting with lawmakers, President Donald Trump emphasized the importance of firearms as protection against mass shootings in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting that killed 17. He referred to the June 2016 shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, saying, “If you had one person in that room that could carry a gun and knew how to use it, it wouldn’t have happened, or certainly to the extent that it did.”
Turns out Trump is wrong on how that attack unfolded. An armed police officer was working at Pulse and exchanged fire with the gunman who killed 49 people and wounded dozens more on June 12, 2016.
Soon after the first shots rang out, officer Adam Gruler, a 15-year veteran of the Orlando Police Department, exchanged gunfire with the attacker, 29-year-old Omar Mateen.
This isn’t the first time Trump has made this erroneous claim. Our friends at Factcheck.org flagged a similar statement after candidate Trump at a June 15, 2016 campaign rally — days after the Orlando shooting — bemoaned that there were “no guns on the other side.”
Several days later Trump took to Twitter to clarify his statement after backlash from gun safety advocates and even the National Rifle Association, who said alcohol and guns don’t mix.
“When I said that if, within the Orlando club, you had some people with guns, I was obviously talking about additional guards or employees,” Trump tweeted June 20, 2016.
The White House did not respond to our request for comment about Trump’s latest statement on the Pulse shooting.
The Justice Department in 2017 released a nearly 200-page report detailing the Orlando police response to the shooting. Here’s the report’s account of Gruler’s initial confrontation with Mateen:
“Outside, in the Pulse parking lot, (Gruler), who was working extra duty at the club — to provide outside security and to provide assistance to security personnel inside the club if needed — heard the shots that were being fired; at 2:02:17 a.m., he broadcast over the radio, ‘Shots fired, shots fired, shots fired,’ and requested additional officers to respond.
“The detective told the assessment team that he immediately recognized that his Sig Sauer P226 9mm handgun was no match for the .223 caliber rifle being fired inside the club and moved to a position that afforded him more cover in the parking lot. Two patrons attempted to flee through an emergency exit on the south side of the club. When the detective saw the suspect shoot them, he fired at the suspect.”
According to an Orlando Police Department report, additional officers arrived on the scene about a minute after Gruler’s call for backup was broadcast. A second backup officer arrived about a minute after that.
At 2:05 a.m., Gruler advised that the suspect had an assault rifle (the gunman also carried a Glock 17 9mm handgun). Gruler again shot at Mateen, this time “firing three shots at the suspect as the sound of rapid fire gunshots were heard inside the club.”
The Orlando gunman was ultimately shot and killed in a shootout after law enforcement, including SWAT team members, breached the building’s wall. Some 300 local law enforcement officers came during the three-hour standoff, according to the Orlando police report.
Talking about the Pulse nightclub shooting, Trump said, “If you had one person in that room that could carry a gun and knew how to use it, it wouldn’t have happened, or certainly to the extent that it did.”
An armed, off-duty police officer in uniform was at the club during the shooting, and exchanged gunfire with the shooter, who managed to kill 49 people.
We rate this False.