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Autopsies reveal Orlando nightclub victims’ extensive wounds; gunman was shot eight times

Law enforcement officials investigate the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., where Omar Mateen gunned down 49 people in June.
(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

For nearly two months, family members of 49 people killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting have been waiting for clarity on what happened during their loved ones’ final moments.

On Friday, they got some answers as 31 of the victims’ autopsy reports were released.

“It’s heartbreaking and it’s extremely difficult, but I have to know exactly what happened to my son, and I want the world to know and understand what he went through,” said Christine Leinonen, whose only child was killed in the massacre.

“People will share my pain and realize he’s more than just a photo flashing on a screen and went through a lot of pain,” she said.

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Christopher “Drew” Leinonen’s autopsy includes unthinkable details that no mother should have to read, like the impact that eight gunshot wounds had on his body.

But the autopsy still doesn’t answer many key questions that have haunted Leinonen for weeks: whether her son was hit accidentally by law enforcement, where he was found in the club and if he suffered for hours inside before officers breached an entry.

Like many of the other victims, Christopher was hit multiple times.

Many of the autopsies revealed commonalities: Most of the victims were not shot at close range and many were hit from the front or side, appearing as though they didn’t have much time to react and run.

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Bullets hit them in nearly every possible place, including the head, chest, legs and back. Victims had more than 130 gunshot wounds total in the autopsies released Friday, a number that is sure to grow as the remainder of reports are released.

The reports released Friday show that gunman Omar Mateen fired relentlessly on the hundreds inside the gay nightclub during the early morning hours of June 12.

Since her son’s death, Leinonen has become an advocate for “common-sense” gun rules. She spoke at last month’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in opposition to the military-style weapon that killed her son.

Now, she’s trying to get answers for herself and the dozens of other families.

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“I won’t stop calling and asking questions because it’s already been two months and I still don’t have any answers,” she said. “This is a nightmare I have to live every single day. I need these details and I need to know the horror my son went through. It’s the only way I can move forward.”

The other 18 autopsies are expected next week and will help show what happened inside the club as investigators continue to piece together details.

Police fired at Mateen about 150 times during the final shoot-out at Pulse nightclub, police reports show, but an autopsy revealed just eight bullets struck him. The report on his autopsy also was released Friday.

Mateen was shot after law enforcement breached a back wall of the club about 5:07 a.m., according to Orlando Police dispatch records. That was three hours after Mateen fired the first shots in the club.

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Police said 13 SWAT members engaged Mateen in gunfire about 5:14 a.m., and reported him “down” at 5:17 a.m.

The toxicology report indicated Mateen was not under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs the night of the shooting.

In a list of personal items on the body, the medical examiner noted finding a gun holster strapped to Mateen’s belt.

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Hayes and Doornbos write for the Orlando Sentinel.

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