Orlando gunman said he was ‘Islamic soldier’ and warned of more attacks to come, in ‘chilling, calm’ phone calls
Orlando gunman Omar Mateen identified himself as an “Islamic soldier” in calls with authorities during his rampage and warned a crisis negotiator that in coming days “you’re going to see more of this type of action going on,” according to transcripts released by the FBI on Monday.
The partial transcripts were of a 911 call made by Mateen and three conversations he had with the police crisis negotiators during the worst mass shooting in modern US history, in which 49 people died and dozens were wounded.
Those communications, along with Facebook posts and searches Mateen made around the time of the shootings, add to the public understanding of the final hours of Mateen’s life and to the possible motivations behind the rampage.
The first call came more than a half-hour after shots rang out, when Mateen told a 911 operator, “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 let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.”
During the 50-second call with a dispatcher, Mateen “made murderous statements in a “chilling, calm and deliberate manner”, Ronald Hopper, FBI assistant special agent in charge in Orlando, said during a news conference.
However, there is no evidence Mateen was directed by a foreign terrorist group, and he was radicalised domestically and on his own, Hopper said.
Mateen’s name and the groups and people to whom he pledged allegiance were initially omitted from the excerpt. But the Justice Department reversed course later Monday, providing a more complete transcript confirming Mateen pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State. The extremist group encourages its followers who seek to commit violence in its name to make public pledges of support.
The Justice Department said in a statement it initially withheld the names so as not to give extremists “a publicity platform for hateful propaganda,” but the omissions became an unnecessary distraction.
Shortly after the call with a 911 operator, Mateen had three conversations with crisis negotiators in which he identified himself as an Islamic soldier and told a negotiator to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq. He said that was why he was “out here right now,” according to the excerpt.
City officials have refused to provide hundreds of 911 calls related to the Orlando shootings, citing confidentiality under Florida law, and arguing that an ongoing investigation kept the tapes secret. Hopper also said Monday that the tapes would not be released out of respect for the victims.
“Yes, the audio was compelling, but to expose that now would be excruciatingly painful to exploit them in this way,” Hopper said.
Hopper also said: “Part of redacting is to not give credence to individuals who have done terrorist acts in the past. They are not going to propagate their violent rhetoric.”