As he talked on the phone with dispatchers and crisis negotiators from the bathroom of the Pulse nightclub, Orlando gunman Omar Mateen said there was a vehicle outside with explosives and he would “ignite it” if police tried “to do anything stupid,” according to a partial transcript released by the FBI on Monday. He told those on the other end of the phone that he “did the shootings” and he vaguely threatened more attacks.
“In the next few days,” he said, “you’re going to see more of this type of action going on.”
The transcript — even though many parts are shielded from public view — provides the most thorough look yet into precisely what 29-year-old Mateen said to police as he holed up inside a bathroom at Pulse, keeping more than 15 people from fleeing to safety after he had shot others. It shows he spoke of religion and explosives and told negotiators to tell U.S. government officials to stop bombing Syria and Iraq.
The investigation into what prompted Mateen to launch an attack on Pulse that left 49 people dead and dozens others wounded before Orlando police SWAT operators moved in and fatally shot him is a little more than a week old, and many questions remain unanswered. Investigators do not yet know, for example, how many club goers might have been wounded by police fire in the chaotic encounter, nor do they know Mateen’s precise reasons for attacking a popular LGBT nightspot. FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ron Hopper said at a news conference Monday that investigators are looking at a “myriad of things” that could have motivated the attack.
As they released the partial transcript, the FBI also provided a more detailed timeline of law enforcement’s hours-long encounter with Mateen. The first call about multiple shots being fired at the club came at 2:02 a.m., and two minutes later, more police officers arrived on scene. Officers from various agencies entered the club at 2:08 a.m., and at 2:18 a.m., the SWAT team was called out.
At 2:35 a.m., Mateen made his first 911 call from the bathroom.
“In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficial,” he said, in Arabic.
“What?” the call taker responded.
“Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God. I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings,” Mateen said.
Law enforcement and other officials have said previously that Mateen pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State one of his calls to police, and he posted messages on Facebook doing the same, though the partial transcript redacts the terror group’s name. That decision drew critical questions from reporters at a news conference Monday as well as from Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).
“Selectively editing this transcript is preposterous,” Ryan said in a statement. “We know the shooter was a radical Islamist extremist inspired by ISIS. We also know he intentionally targeted the LGBT community. The administration should release the full, unredacted transcript so the public is clear-eyed about who did this, and why.”
Investigators have also explored claims that Mateen had used a dating app for men and had been to Pulse before the shooting, and officials have said they are investigating the crime as one of both terror and hate. There have been no indications that Mateen has direct connections with terror groups overseas, officials have said.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch told CNN on Sunday that Mateen “didn’t get into” his thoughts about gay people during the calls, and indeed, the partial transcript shows no such discussion. Hopper said allegations about Mateen being gay himself were “still being vetted out” and investigators had reached no conclusions.
FBI Director James Comey has said previously that there were three different 911 calls involving Mateen. The gunman, he has said, called 911 about a half hour after his rampage began, then hung up the phone. He then called back and spoke briefly to a dispatcher before hanging up again, at which point the dispatcher called back Mateen, the FBI director has said. The dispatcher and Mateen spoke briefly on that last call, Comey has said.
The FBI said on Monday that Mateen had three calls with crisis negotiators — the first at 2:48 a.m. lasting nine minutes, the second at 3:03 a.m. lasting sixteen minutes and the third at 3:24 a.m. lasting three minutes. In those calls, Mateen “identified himself as an Islamic soldier,” the FBI said, and told the negotiator “to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq.” The FBI said Mateen claimed that was why he was “out here right now.”
Mateen also claimed there was “some vehicle outside that has some bombs,” and threatened, “You people are gonna get it, and I’m gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid,” according to the FBI transcript. He also said he had a vest like the kind “used in France.” Authorities ultimately did not find any explosives.
The calls came after Mateen twice exchanged gunfire with police officers at Pulse and fled to a bathroom, authorities have said. Orlando police officials have said the gunfire stopped after he entered that bathroom, and negotiations began. All the while, they have said, officers worked to free what hostages they could, including those hiding in dressing rooms.
Some of those trapped in the bathroom with Mateen have described his phone calls previously, and law enforcement officials have also noted other contacts. Mateen exchanged text messages with his wife and had at least one phone call with an acquaintance, law enforcement officials have said. The details of that call and those exchanges, though, are unclear, and the FBI has not said precisely how many calls Mateen made or to whom. The FBI said it would not release audio of the calls.
Negotiations ultimately broke down with Mateen around 5 a.m., authorities said, and SWAT officers scrambled to break holes in the walls to the bathroom and free those who were held captive. The FBI said Monday that about 12 minutes after they started doing so, they received reports of shots being fired. Mateen eventually came out one of those holes, police have said, where he was shot to death by SWAT officers in a final gun battle.