FBI releases partial transcripts of Pulse shooter’s 911 calls
For six minutes, after an initial flurry of gunfire with an off-duty Orlando police officer, Omar Mateen shot his way unopposed through Pulse nightclub, authorities revealed Monday.
When backup police officers arrived, they went inside and fired at him, prompting him to retreat to a bathroom, where he barricaded himself with a group of hostages, Orlando Police Chief John Mina said.
Half an hour later, he began explaining himself. In a series of phone calls with authorities, he spoke Arabic and demanded that America stop bombing Syria and Iraq, according to new information released by the FBI from its investigation into the June 12 shooting at Pulse, where 49 people were killed and 53 were injured.
Among the information released: a partial transcript of the gunman’s phone calls while the standoff was still underway. Though authorities divulged few details about what Mateen said, a timeline released shows when and how Orlando police officers responded to his words and actions.
Mina said his team shouldn’t be criticized over the length of the standoff.
“I think there’s a misconception that we didn’t do anything for three hours. I’m just trying to clarify that that’s absolutely not true,” Mina said.
According to the FBI timeline, Mateen opened fire at 2:02 a.m., and Officer Adam Gruler, who was moonlighting at the club, exchanged gunfire with him from the parking lot.
Gruler then retreated and called for backup.
For the next six minutes, Mateen worked his way through the club, according to witnesses, shooting people with a military-style rifle and a semi-automatic handgun, then doubling back and shooting at those who had not yet died.
Those backup officers arrived at 2:08 a.m. and went into the club and fired at Mateen, the FBI timeline shows.
‘Those killings are on the suspect’
It’s not clear when that gun battle ended, but Mina said there were no more shots fired by or at the gunman until about 5:15 a.m., about 10 minutes after the police department forced its way into the building with explosives and an armored vehicle.
At that point, Mateen shot at officers, and they opened fire, killing him, authorities said earlier.
Asked if any of the hostages were wounded by police gunfire, Mina said on Monday, “That’s all part of the investigation, but here’s what I will tell you: Those killings are on the suspect and the suspect alone, in my mind. All our officers acted heroically, as they were trained, and under the circumstances, did an unbelievable job.”
He also said that officers who went into the club while the gunman was barricaded in the bathroom, including those from Belle Isle, saved lives by pulling clubgoers to safety.
Ron Hopper, the FBI agent in charge of the investigation, told reporters that investigators have conducted more than 500 interviews, collected more than 600 pieces of evidence and searched 117 vehicles.
The investigation “may last months and even years, but I want you to know that we endeavor to bring justice to the victims who survived as well as the families of the deceased who were so viciously murdered,” he said.
Authorities will not release the recordings of Mateen’s phone calls, Hopper said, but he described the gunman’s voice as “chilling, calm and deliberate. … The killer of 49 and shooter of 53 others identified himself as an Islamic soldier who pleaded allegiance to a terrorist organization intent on killing Americans.”
The Orlando Sentinel, along with other news organizations, is seeking the release of the 911 calls.
Mateen, a security guard from Fort Pierce, made his first call to authorities about a half an hour after the bloodshed began, according to the FBI’s timeline.
He dialed 911, and the call lasted 50 seconds. In it, he praised God and “the prophet” and pledged allegiance to the man who heads the Islamic State.
When the dispatcher asked Mateen his name, he answered, “My name is I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.”
Despite that, Hopper said there’s no evidence that Mateen “was directed by a foreign terrorist group.”
‘I did the shootings’
That first call ended abruptly.
“I’m in Orlando,” Mateen told the dispatcher. “I did the shootings.”
He hung up a short time later when the dispatcher asked for his specific location.
About 12 minutes later, a police negotiator reached him by phone, and they talked for nine minutes, according to the FBI. There were two more phone calls with a negotiator in the next half hour.
During those calls, Mateen mentioned explosives. The FBI didn’t spell out exactly when that happened, but it was in a span of time that began 45 minutes to an hour and a half after the shooting began.
“There is some vehicle outside that has some bombs, just to let you know,” the FBI quoted him as saying. “You people are gonna get it, and I’m gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid.”
Survivors told police at 4:29 a.m. that they heard the gunman say he intended to put four explosive vests on victims within 15 minutes, according to the FBI.
There were no explosives, Hopper said.
At the news conference, Mina, Hopper, U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings all praised the way the Orlando Police Department handled the mass shooting.
The officers on the scene, Bentley said, are “brave men … who should not be second-guessed. They performed valiantly during those early morning hours. Lives were saved because of their heroic work.”
Today, Attorney General Loretta Lynch is scheduled be in Orlando to get a firsthand update on the investigation into what Bentley called “the largest mass shooting we’ve had, the most significant terrorist attack since 9/11.”
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