In the midst of a tense standoff with police, Orlando nightclub gunman Omar Mateen calmly claimed credit for the massacre and identified himself as an “Islamic soldier” while calling on U.S. authorities to stop the bombing in Iraq and Syria, according to partial transcripts of the attacker’s telephone contacts with dispatchers and crisis negotiators released on Monday.
“Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God,” Mateen told a 911 dispatcher in Arabic just after 2:30 a.m., June 12. “I am in Orlando, and I did the shootings.”
Mateen provided his full name during the 50-second call and then went on to pledge allegiance to a terror group, whose identity was redacted from the transcripts. Law enforcement officials, however, have said that the gunman pledged his solidarity to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, as well as to the Boston Marathon bombers and an American suicide bomber who died in a 2014 attack in Syria.
Ron Hopper, the FBI’s lead investigator in Orlando, said the terror group’s name and other references were redacted from the documents so as not to call undue attention to their causes.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., however, called the decision to edit the transcript “preposterous.”
“We know the shooter was a radical Islamist extremist inspired by ISIS,” Ryan said. “We also know he intentionally targeted the LGBT community. The administration should release the full, un-redacted transcript so the public is clear-eyed about who did this, and why.”
Hopper said there was no evidence to indicate that Mateen was specifically directed to act by a terror group, though investigators believe he was “radicalized domestically.”
Meanwhile, a short summary of the gunman’s communications during three calls with crisis negotiators indicated that Mateen was asked directly what he had done inside the club, prompting an ominous warning to police.
“No, you already know what I did,” he said. “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.”
He later indicated that he had an explosive vest, similar to the type “used in France” during last year’s Islamic State attacks in Paris.
“In the next few days, you’re going to see more of this type of action going on,” he said.
No explosives were ultimately found in the gunman’s vehicle or inside the club.
Mateen, 29, was killed when police stormed the gay nightclub Pulse after a three-hour standoff. The attack ultimately left 49 dead and 53 wounded.
Eighteen of the of the wounded remained hospitalized Monday. Four were in critical condition, Orlando Health said.
Authorities previously have said Mateen made two calls to 911 during the attack, and that police called him back once. Mateen also made a “goodbye” call to a friend, called a local television station, made posts to Facebook and exchanged texts with his wife while holed up in the club.
Included with Monday’s partial disclosure of the gunman’s communications was a timeline based on Orlando police radio transmissions, which showed that officers from various agencies entered the nightclub and “engaged the shooter” at 2:08 a.m., six minutes after the initial alert that “multiple shots” had been fired at the club.
By 2:18 a.m., Orlando police had deployed its full SWAT force, an action that preceded the shooter’s three contacts with 911 dispatchers and three separate exchanges with crisis negotiators, lasting a total of 28 minutes.
Between the initial exchange of gunfire with police and the final assault that left the gunman dead — a period of about three hours — there were no reports of gunfire, according to the radio transmissions.
During that three-hour period, police disclosed that they launched a rescue operation during which they pulled an air conditioning unit from a nightclub dressing room, allowing an undisclosed number of victims to evacuate.
Thirteen minutes after after police finally breached a nightclub wall with explosives and an armored vehicle at 5:02 a.m., radio transmissions indicated that officers had “engaged the suspect and the suspect was reported down.”
Attorney General Loretta Lynch is scheduled to travel to Orlando Tuesday to meet with investigators for an update on the inquiry. On Sunday, she declined to say if a federal grand jury was likely to charge Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman, who officials say may have known her husband was planning the attack.
Investigators are trying to learn more not just about Mateen, but also about others who knew him, including members of the mosque he attended. Hopper said Monday that investigators had conducted 500 interviews in the case so far and gathered 600 pieces of evidence as part of an inquiry that could take “months or even years.”
Mateen had been on the FBI radar prior to the Orlando tragedy. FBI Director James Comey has provided a history of the FBI’s contacts with Mateen, which included a 10-month investigation of possible terror connections. The inquiry was prompted by provocative statements Mateen made to co-workers in 2013 while working as a security guard at a Florida courthouse.
Mateen drew the attention of agents in 2014 when he was identified as a suspected associate of American-born suicide bomber Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, who died in an attack in Syria. Investigators concluded that Mateen had no association of consequence with the bomber.