Photo, above: The aftermath of a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
Photo: AP

Shades of Benghazi!

The first police officers to arrive on the scene of the worst mass murder in American history had broken through a window and were prepared to engage Omar Mateen who was busy shooting innocent people. However, they were told to stand down.

What!? People are being shot, bleeding to death, dying, and the first officers on the scene, equipped with assault rifles, were told to withdraw, go back outside and wait for SWAT to arrive? Really?

This stinks to high Heaven and surely heads will roll. It is hard to say how many lives would have been saved if those first responders had been permitted to engage the shooter, but I’m certain it would have been many.

From New York Post

A group of Orlando cops burst into Pulse nightclub through a glass window within minutes of Omar Mateen‘s rampage — but were ordered by commanders to hold their position, according to one of the officers, whose account contradicts the FBI version of events during the worst mass shooting in US history.

Belle Isle police officer Brandon Cornwell, 25 — the first officer to speak publicly about that night — said he was helping with a traffic stop when he heard the call on his radio that shots had been fired at Pulse.

He said he arrived “in 38 seconds” in one of the first seven police cars.

“Some ran towards the building; some stayed back with people running out,” he said. “There was tons of people running out of the club. I grabbed my assault rifle and ran toward the club. At this point, the shooter is still actively shooting inside.”

Cornwell converged on the south side of the building along with several other officers, the report said.

“There happens to be an (Orlando police) lieutenant commander who was there, and he says, ‘We’ve got to go in,’ ” Cornwell said. “No one disagreed. One of the officers busted out one of those side windows and we just went in and went from there.”

He said the team spent the first seconds “trying to locate exactly where the shooter was — we kept hearing people scream and shots fired,” the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Cornwell said he and the other cops began “clearing rooms” and trying to locate the source of the gunfire. Within minutes, Cornwell said he and the other cops located Mateen in the bathroom area.

“We took up a tactical position by the bar standpoint in the middle of the club, he said.

Cornwell said Mateen was nowhere to be seen but “he was actively shooting.”

“I can’t say if he was targeting us. But he was still shooting in that location where he was at. There were bullet holes in the wall, so he had shot through the wall. But I couldn’t tell you if he was shooting at us,” he said.

During their 15 to 20 minutes wait, Cornwell and the others in the group of first responders left the club, he said.

But then the cops were ordered to hold their position until a SWAT team arrived.

‘We got word from higher up, and it was communicated to the OPD lieutenant that we needed to withdraw. So we came back outside. And waited for SWAT.’

 – Officer Brandon Cornwell

“We got word from higher up, and it was communicated to the OPD lieutenant that we needed to withdraw,” he said. “So we came back outside. And waited for SWAT. SWAT arrived. SWAT handled everything from there.”

The FBI has said that police first responders “engaged the shooter” in the club at 2:08 a.m., however Cornwell’s account raises questions about why they were told not to pursue Mateen into the bathroom and whether any SWAT members entered the club once the first responders retreated.

Some survivors inside the club remained trapped for hours and rescued by police working from outside the building. The FBI’s timeline does not describe any SWAT movement into the club until 5 a.m., the paper reported.

“I was yelling, ‘Go in there, go in there, my friends are in there,’ ” said Jeannette McCoy, who escaped during the first few minutes and saw the first responders gathering near the main entrance. “People are bleeding to death.”

Orlando police and the FBI declined to provide further clarification Tuesday. Cornwell also declined to elaborate on what happened inside, citing the ongoing investigation and his orders not to speak.

“We just basically stayed there, waited for movement, and we just held our position until SWAT got there,” said Cornwell, who never fired his weapon, the paper reported.

“Once SWAT got there, they told us to retreat, that they’d take over because we were not really in tactical gear — we were just in our police uniforms,” he added.

Capt. Mark Canty, Orlando’s SWAT commander, said he believed that everyone “did a good job” – though the incident will be thoroughly reviewed.

“That’s the worst part of this. I think we did an outstanding job, but unfortunately people died,” he said.

The tiny Belle Isle police force has an agreement to assist the community of Edgewood, which is near the club.

Several survivors have described pauses in Mateen’s gunfire when he moved, but it was unclear whether his movements happened before Cornwell and the other cops entered the club, or after they withdrew.

A former cop who is an expert on active-shooter response told Politico that protocol developed after the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 dictates that once two or more cops are on scene, they should go after the shooter.

The information released thus far into police response in Orlando will lead to a jarring conclusion, Chris Grollneck told the news site.

“It will tell you the leadership of the Orlando Police Department failed the people inside the club,” he said.