The FBI has released portions of conversations between Orlando shooter Omar Mateen and police during the deadly assault at Pulse nightclub last week, highlighting the threats Mateen made before police decided to break through a wall at the nightclub.
After police first ran into Pulse and exchanged gunfire with Mateen around 2 a.m. on June 12, no more shots were fired for nearly three hours — while authorities and Mateen repeatedly spoke over the phone.
Police decided to breach a wall at Pulse only after Mateen threatened to detonate a series of bombs on the scene and strap four explosive vests on victims within 15 minutes, the FBI said today.
Lee Bentley, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida, said today’s release is intended to give the public a better idea of what officers “were dealing with” when they made the decision to enter the nightclub.
The actions of officers that morning “should not be second-guessed. They performed valiantly,” Bentley insisted. “Lives were saved because of their heroic work.”
During multiple calls with police, Mateen identified himself as an Islamic soldier and pledged his allegiance to a group overseas — believed to be ISIS.
He said he was “out here right now” because the U.S. was bombing Syria and Iraq, according to excerpts of the conversations released today.
About a half-hour after the initial reports of shots fired, Mateen called a 911 operator from inside Pulse, saying in Arabic, “In the name of God the merciful, the beneficial … 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,” the FBI said.
The call lasted less than a minute.
In later calls, according to the FBI, Mateen 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. In the next few days, you’re going to see more of this type of action going on.”
While the FBI wouldn’t release the actual audio recordings, Ron Hopper, the FBI’s assistant special agent in charge, said Mateen spoke “in a chilling, calm and deliberate manner.”
Yesterday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch discussed the upcoming release of the excerpts, saying it was intended to let people “see the type of interaction that was had there.”
However, federal authorities removed any references to ISIS or its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“We are trying not to revictimize those who went through that horror,” Lynch said on ABC’s “This Week.”