— -- 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 2:08 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 scene and to 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 ISIS. Mateen said he was "out here right now" because America was bombing Syria and Iraq, according to excerpts of the conversations released today.
About a half-hour after the initial reports of shots were fired, Mateen called a 911 operator from inside Pulse, saying in Arabic, "I wanna let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings...I pledge allegiance to [ISIS leader] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may God protect him, on behalf of the Islamic State," the FBI alleged.
The call lasted less than a minute. Federal authorities initially only released part of the transcript in an attempt to remove references to ISIS or al-Baghdadi.
But later today, after criticism and questions from some lawmakers, the Justice Department decided to release a more complete version of the excerpts.
The department wanted to remain "sensitive to the interests of the surviving victims [and] their families," and "did not want to provide the killer or terrorist organizations with a publicity platform for hateful propaganda," the Justice Department said this afternoon in a statement. "Unfortunately, the unreleased portions of the transcript that named the terrorist organizations and leaders have caused an unnecessary distraction from the hard work that the FBI and our law enforcement partners have been doing to investigate this heinous crime," so the department "re-issued the complete transcript."
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."