Orlando Police Det. Adam Gruler, the first member of law enforcement to exchange fire with the Pulse nightclub shooter a year ago Monday, is a Long Island native, the Press has learned.
Gruler’s local ties deepen the region’s link to the nation’s deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman, who killed 49 people before he was fatally shot by police after a three-hour standoff. The mass murderer, Omar Mateen, 29, grew up in Westbury before moving to Florida. And among the 58 wounded survivors was 29-year-old Marissa Delgado of Glen Cove.
“He’s on the patio!” Gruler yelled to two fellow officers who responded after he first confronted Mateen at 2:02 a.m. June 12, 2016, according to Orlando Police Department documents on the case published in April by WKMG-TV. Moments later, as he and team of four officers tried to apprehend the shooter, he was seen and heard on video yelling, “Guys, approach, let’s go!”
The revelation that Gruler is a native Long Islander, first reported by the Press, comes amid remembrances honoring the victims nationwide during LGBT pride month celebrations. During one such event Sunday in Long Beach, 49 surfers representing the victims paddled out into the Atlantic while mourners gathered on the shore tossed flowers into the ocean.
Gruler, who joined the Orlando police force in 2001, was an off-duty officer moonlighting in uniform as security for the Pulse nightclub on the night of the shooting. His search of the parking lot for an underage patron with fake ID was interrupted when he heard the first shots ring out, ran inside and got into a brief shootout with Mateen before retreating and calling for backup, the Orlando Sentinel reported. In the year since, Gruler became a detective and was awarded by police brass for valor on that night, according to the department.
The detective was unavailable for comment because the investigation into the massacre is continuing, said Lt. Wanda Miglio, an Orlando police spokeswoman. He was born and lived on LI for several years before moving to Florida, according to his family.
Delgado, the Pulse victim from LI, was reportedly still reeling from survivors guilt six months after the shooting.
“I got shot 12 times and there’s people that just got shot once and didn’t get to make it,” she told WPTV in December. “Especially my best friend who I came in with. We were supposed to leave together and I couldn’t really do anything to save him.”
Mateen, who was born in New York, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State during the massacre. His widow, Noor Salman, pleaded not guilty earlier this year to federal charges of obstruction of justice and aiding a foreign terrorist organization. Authorities alleged that she misled investigators and aided an abetted Mateen before the shooting.
Survivors and the victims’ families are also suing Salman and Mateen’s former employer, G4S Security, for allegedly ignoring signs that Mateen was a threat, although the company defended its background check on the gunman, WPEC reported.