Details on Orlando Shooting 911 Call Emerge

     (CN) – The gunman who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando told a 911 dispatcher that he was an Islamic soldier and later demanded an end to U.S. bombing of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, according to a transcript released by the FBI on Monday.
     The agency initially released only a partial transcript of law enforcement’s exchanges with Omar Mateen. It included portions of three conversations Mateen had with 911 dispatchers and crisis negotiators during the worst mass shooting in U.S. history and the hostage crisis that followed.
     On Monday afternoon, the FBI released a more complete transcript, saying its earlier decision to withhold the names caused an unnecessary distraction.
     The transcript now includes Mateen’s name and confirms he pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, during phone conversations with crisis negotiators.
     A statement from the Justice Department says the names were initially omitted so as not to give extremists a publicity platform for hateful propaganda.
     But the FBI had previously said Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and other organizations.
     The first call, to the 911 operator, came more than a half an hour after Mateen laid siege to the nightclub, where a well-attended “Latin Night” was just winding down.
     “Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God,” he told the dispatcher, referring to God in Arabic.
     “I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings,” Mateen said.
     During a news conference held at the site of the carnage on Monday, FBI Assistant Special Agent Ronald Hopper described Mateen’s demeanor during this and subsequent phone calls as “chilling, calm and deliberate.”
     Despite Mateen’s assertions, Hooper said authorities have still not turned up any evidence the gunman was directed by Islamic State or any other foreign terrorist group.
     Mateen’s name and the groups and people to whom he pledged allegiance were omitted from the transcript excerpts, a move that was sharply criticized by House Speaker Paul Ryan.
     “We know the shooter was a radical Islamist extremist inspired by ISIS,” Ryan said in a statement Monday, using a common abbreviation for the Islamic State. “We also know he intentionally targeted the LGBT community.”
     Previously, the FBI said Mateen pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State.
     In a timeline released alongside the transcripts, the FBI said that a local police squad arrived on the scene at 2:04 am on June 12, less than five minutes after Mateen’s initial shooting rampage at the club.
     The FBI confirmed prior reports that officers had an early exchange of gunfire with Mateen, prompting him to barricade himself inside a bathroom area for three hours with several hostages.
     Survivors described a horrific scene where the bathroom floor was covered in an ever-growing pool of blood.
     “It’s important to note that this started as an active shooter situation. Our officers took action and … transitioned into a barricaded gunman, hostage situation,” Orlando police chief John Mina said at a press conference.
     Outside the bathroom, officers were moving “intermittently in and out of that club saving people, rescuing people,” Mina said.
     Mateen spoke with hostage negotiators three times in a 45-minute window while law enforcement attempted to rescue club patrons, according to the FBI.
     He repeatedly lied about having explosive devices, at one point falsely telling hostage negotiators that he had an explosive vest similar to the one “used in France” during the Nov. 2015 terrorist attacks on Paris, the FBI said Monday.
     During one conversation with a crisis negotiator, the transcript has Mateen saying, “There is some vehicle outside that has some bombs, just to let you know. You people are gonna get it, and I’m gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid.”
     Mateen later stated, “In the next few days, you’re going to see more of this type of action going on.”
     He hung up and multiple attempts to get in touch with him were unsuccessful.
     At 4:21 am, a little less than an hour after Mateen’s last conversation with negotiators, the Orlando police department pulled out an air conditioning unit from a dressing room window at the nightclub and started to evacuate victims.
     The agency said it would not be releasing transcripts of conversations it had with people rescued from the club, but said “significant information” obtained from them helped clarify what was going on inside the club.
     Several apparently told the agency Mateen was threatening to put explosive vests of some of those still inside.
     The FBI said no bombs or vests were later found on the scene, but those threats were what led to a SWAT and hazardous device team being called in at around 5 a.m. Mateen was shot dead 15 minutes later.
     The FBI and the Orlando police chief stood by their tactical decisions and defended the length of the siege, claiming that in the three-hour period that Mateen was holed up in the bathroom, up until the SWAT team’s entry, there were no shots fired.
     “I think there was this misconception that we didn’t do anything for three hours. I’m just trying to clarify, that’s absolutely not true. Our officers were within the club within minutes, exchanged gun fire with the suspect, [and] forced him to stop shooting and retreat into the bathroom. From there, we let our negotiator take over and try and negotiate this to a peaceful resolution in an effort to save lives while our SWAT team set up,” Mina said.
     
     The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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