ORLANDO, Fla. – An officer who was shot in the head while responding to the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando is being told he’s facing termination, according to a report from ABC 9.
Mike Napolitano narrowly escaped the night with his life. He says he owes it all to his ballistic helmet, which stopped a bullet from killing him.
But since Napolitano hasn’t been back to duty since the attack, he’s being told that he’s going to be let go from the department. Orlando state policy gives officers a set amount of time to return to work following an event like this… and Napolitano’s time has run out.
Three years ago, Napolitano and fellow officers confronted Pulse mass shooter Omar Mateen as he appeared in a hole in the club made by the SWAT team in order to rescue hostages.
When Mateen appeared in that hole, he and officers exchanged heavy rounds of fire. Napolitano was hit, but the helmet saved his life.
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The officers were able to take down Mateen, but not before he had killed nearly 50 people in his vicious assault.
ABC 9 reported that it’s been three years, and still Napolitano has not been medically cleared or told he was permanently not fit to return. He took another position in alternative duty, where officers typically remain for a year.
Hanging in limbo, Napolitano got the news this week that his time might be up.
Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon said that he made sure Napolitano got a heads-up call before it happened.
That call came in this Thursday.
Rolon said he that while understands that the situation is difficult because of the fact that Napolitano was shot by a domestic terrorist, the city policy applies to every officer.
Napolitano is one of six officers facing termination over the statute. Napolitano now must figure out how to resolve the issue and either return to duty… or lose his job with the force.
The helmet that saved his life sits on display inside the Orlando Police Department.
Another officer who was one of the very first inside the Pulse nightclub on the night of the shooting has also been facing horrific battles with his own demons since the tragedy.
He sat down with Law Enforcement Today to open up about his experience.
Officer Omar Delgado will never forget the early morning hours of June 12th as an armed attacker shot up the inside of the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
He was one of the first on scene.
“You could smell death in there. You could taste it.”
It was utter chaos.
A few months ago, we had the chance to sit down with Omar during the Not All Heroes Wear Capes event at Emergency Operations Proving Grounds in Texas.
Wounded officer and LET Citizen of the Year Houston Gass sat with Omar as he recounted the horrors of that day. The interview can be seen at the end of the article.
As hundreds of people tried to push through the exit of the nightclub door, emergency responders were trying to get inside to stop the carnage as a gunman fired shot after shot.
“Finally I made my way inside the club. And we just all stopped.”
As he called out to the people laying on the floor inside the club, a horrifying realization came over Delgado. Those people laying on the floor… they weren’t faking it. They weren’t playing dead in hopes that the shooter would look past them and seek another target.
They were hit. They were dying, or in most cases – already gone.
The officers made their way through the dance floor, looking for the gunman, but only seeing the carnage he left behind.
“Orlando is Disney World. The happiest place on Earth. People come here just for that. And… it wasn’t that. It was one of the worst massacres that occurred on U.S. soil.”
But then suddenly, movement. Some of the victims were still alive. Frantically, the officers called for fire crews to come inside and begin helping the wounded.
But they refused.
Everyone outside the club knew that the gunman hadn’t been taken out yet. He was reportedly hiding out and attempting to fix his jammed weapon as police made entry. He had been using social media and news stories to stay ahead of police. Other crews weren’t coming in.
That’s when Omar and his fellow officers began pulling injured bodies themselves, doing any and everything they could to save lives.
“I didn’t know who they were. But they were human beings. They were crying for help.”
Then the phones began to ring as loved ones heard the news of the active shooter situation. Omar was surrounded by the sound, all in unison, all people hoping that their friends and family members hadn’t been inside Pulse that night.
Omar described the horrific scene when one phone that continuously was ringing floated across the floor in a pool of blood…
“Then it’s just… pure silence.”
49 people died more than 50 others were injured before the gunman was killed in a shootout with police.
Surveillance footage was eventually released showing graphic footage of the attack as it unfolded.
A lawsuit was filed last June, going after Orlando officers who stood outside the club while the gunman continued his warpath inside.
“While people, unarmed, innocent were inside a club getting absolutely massacred by a crazed gunman there were a bunch of people … with guns, with the training and capability to take that shooter out,” Solomon Radner, attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, told ABC News.
But police rushed into the club a mere six minutes after the gunman began firing.
The city fired back, issuing a statement saying, “after the horrific act of hate inside the Pulse nightclub, our community continues to mourn the 49 lives taken and provide support for all those impacted. On the morning of June 12, 2016, federal, state and local law enforcement officers and first responders put themselves in harm’s way to save as many lives as possible.”
Officer Omar Delgado told us he’ll never be the same after that night.
“I came home that morning a different person,” he said. “I don’t know how I drove home.”
He said that once he got there he sat inside his car for over 15 minutes outside, covered in blood, lost in a world of thought.
We pray for Omar. We pray for every victim and their families. We pray for the other officers who faced the same trauma, and those that will in the future. And we say thank you for their service and bravery.
Take an exclusive look at this special episode of Thin Blue Blood as Omar tells his story.
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