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Orlando nightclub shooter told 911 dispatcher: 'I did the shootings'

People hold candles at Sunday's candlelight vigil for the victims of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub as they gather at Lake Eola Park in Orlando. [Associated Press]
People hold candles at Sunday's candlelight vigil for the victims of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub as they gather at Lake Eola Park in Orlando. [Associated Press]
Published Jun. 20, 2016

As he holed up inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, the gunman who killed 49 people last Sunday told a 911 operator he "did the shootings," according to transcripts released Monday by the FBI.

Omar Mateen, the 29-year-old shooter from Fort Pierce, told crisis negotiators he was at the club to make America stop bombing Syria and Iraq.

In a call at 2:35 a.m. from inside the Pulse nightclub, Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, authorities have said. The transcript released Monday provided a further accounting of that call:

Orlando Dispatcher: Emergency 911, this is being recorded.

Omar Mateen: In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficial [in Arabic]

OD: What?

OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic]. I let you know, I'm in Orlando and I did the shootings.

OD: What's your name?

OM: My name is I pledge of allegiance to [omitted].

OD: Ok, What's your name?

OM: I pledge allegiance to [omitted] may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of [omitted].

OD: Alright, where are you at?

OM: In Orlando.

OD: Where in Orlando?

[End of call.]

After that call, Mateen talked to Orlando police crisis negotiators three times, for nine minutes at 2:48 a.m.; for 16 minutes at 3:03 a.m.; and for three minutes at 3:24 a.m.

In those calls, according to an FBI summary of the conversations, Mateen threatened that he had a bomb and an explosive vest like the kind "used in France," most likely referring to recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

Asked what he had done, he refused to answer, saying, "No, you already know what I did."

After the final call, the FBI said, Mateen hung up and did not answer the phone again.

With the release of the transcripts, authorities also provided an updated timeline of the shooting and the subsequent standoff with a police SWAT team.

The first call about "multiple shots fired" at Pulse came into dispatchers at 2:02 a.m.

Police officers, backing up an off-duty officer who was already at the club, arrived at 2:04 a.m.

At 2:08 a.m., they entered the nightclub and engaged in a gunfight with Mateen.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina said this altercation pushed Mateen back into the club's bathrooms.

At 2:18 a.m., a call went out for the SWAT team to assemble, and at 2:35 a.m., Mateen called 911 for the first time, talking to the Orlando dispatcher for 50 seconds.

During the nearly three hour standoff with Mateen, Mina said, no shots were fired inside the club. Officers attempted to rescue people, he said. At 4:21 a.m., according to the FBI, police pulled an air conditioning unit out of a dressing room window. Mina said they pulled out eight people from the room.

Minutes later, at 4:29 a.m., some victims told officers that the shooter claimed he would put explosive vests on four victims inside. Police searched his van outside and found no explosive devices.

At 5:02 a.m., the tactical team used an explosive charge and an armored vehicle to open holes in the wall of Pulse. Twelve minutes later, officers signaled over the radio: Shots fired.

A minute later, they reported that Mateen had been shot and was on the ground.

Investigators are still processing the crime scene, said Ronald Hopper, an assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Tampa Division. Mina said officers are still not sure if any victim was hit by bullets fired by officers in the gunfight. The SWAT team officers followed their training, he said, and did what they could to stop Mateen.

"Those killings are on the suspect, and on the suspect alone in my mind," the chief said.

Authorities on Monday said they would not release 911 recordings of calls made by victims inside the club. A. Lee Bentley III, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, said officials did not want to do anything that could cause "revictimizing" of survivors.

Hopper said the FBI redacted Mateen's conversations with authorities because the agency is "not going to propagate violent rhetoric" that could motivate other extremists.

Authorities did not cite statute or legal cause for withholding the information.

On the phone, Hopper said, the gunman maintained a "chilling, calm and deliberate manner" as he made "murderous statements."

Investigators have conducted more than 500 interviews in the last week and have processed about 600 pieces of evidence, according to Hopper.

Mateen's motive and the potential that he had conspirators in the crime are both still under investigation.