Orlando SWAT in Tactical Gear — Too Much or Just Right?

An Orange County Sheriff's Department SWAT member arrives to the scene of a fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. Photo: Associated Press.An Orange County Sheriff's Department SWAT member arrives to the scene of a fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. Photo: Associated Press.

This picture of a kitted-out Orange County Sheriff’s Department SWAT member responding to June 12 mass shooting has been circulating the web.

Each time one of these massacres happens, the debate continues over whether police officers should be equipped with the same gear used by infantry and special operations units.

The SWAT member is decked out in body armor with a throat and groin protection and is wearing a ballistic helmet and what appears to be a Peltor military hearing protection and communications headset.

A Heckler & Koch UMP sub-machine gun dangles from a sling near his sidearm in a drop-leg tactical holster. He has some type of a load-bearing harness slung over one shoulder with a mix of pouches including an old-school ALICE magazine pouch. In his other hand he carries a small pack that probably holds a hydration bladder.

Too much? There is no doubt that SWAT guys put themselves into harm’s way.

Sunday’s massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in American history, with 50 individuals confirmed dead, including the gunman, and another 53 injured. The shooting began around 2 a.m. Sunday at a packed Orlando nightclub called Pulse, which caters to the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender, or LBGT, community.

The gunman, who was shot and killed in a shootout with police, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, during a 911 call, CNN reported. He was identified as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim who lived in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and whose parents were of Afghan origin, Fox News reported.

Mateen was armed with an AR15-style rifle, Glock pistol and from the sound of it, plenty of ammunition. He reportedly held dozens of people hostage until about 5 a.m., at which point the Orlando Police Department’s SWAT team raided the building using an armored vehicle and stun grenades, and killed him, The New York Times reported.

I’m sure SWAT members appreciated the gear they were carrying. The Orlando Police Department is crediting a Kevlar helmet with saving the life of an officer who responded that day.

The department on Sunday posted a picture of the officer’s helmet showing damage from being struck by a bullet during the incident. The green paint is chipped, part of the fabric is torn and there appears to be a small bullet hole.

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About the Author

Matthew Cox
Matthew Cox is a reporter at Military.com. He can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.