ORLANDO, Florida — Orlando gunman Omar Mateen twice pledged allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during his shooting spree, in which 49 people died and dozens were wounded, according to the full transcripts released by the US Justice Department on Monday.
The FBI initially distributed redacted versions of the call transcript, which omitted the direct references to the Islamic State, but later released the full account “to provide the highest level of transparency possible under the circumstances,” the bureau said in a statement.
Mateen spoke with police three times during the terror attack, identifying himself as an Islamic soldier and demanded to a crisis negotiator that the US “stop bombing Syria and Iraq.”
During the first call, Mateen “made murderous statements in a “chilling, calm and deliberate manner,” said Ronald Hopper, FBI assistant special agent in charge in Orlando.
The call, which lasted just 50 seconds, came more than a half hour after the first shots rang out. Mateen told a 911 operator: “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 dispatcher then asked Mateen to identify himself.
“My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State,” he said.
“Ok, what’s your name?” the dispatcher asked again.
“I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — may God protect him [Arabic] — on behalf of the Islamic State,” Mateen responded.
However, there is no evidence Mateen was directed by a foreign terrorist group, and he was radicalized on his own, Hopper said.
Those communications, along with Facebook posts Mateen made before and after the shooting, add to the public understanding of the final hours of Mateen’s life.
The FBI said it refrained from releasing the full transcripts of the 911 calls to prevent the spreading of “hateful propaganda,” but the agency relented after receiving numerous requests for the complete record.
“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,” the FBI statement said.
“As much of this information had been previously reported, we have re-issued the complete transcript to include these references in order to provide the highest level of transparency possible under the circumstances,” the agency said.
Shortly after his call at 2:35 a.m., 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.
Meanwhile, hospital officials said four people remained in critical condition Monday morning, more than a week after they were wounded in the attack.
Orlando Regional Medical Center said 18 victims from the shooting were still at the hospital and three more surgeries were scheduled for Monday. The other 14 patients are listed in stable condition.
Armed with a semi-automatic weapon, Mateen went on a bloody rampage at the Pulse nightclub June 12. He died in a hail of gunfire after police stormed the venue.
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch will travel to Orlando on Tuesday to meet with investigators. She said that a key goal of the investigation was to determine why Mateen targeted the gay community. The victims were predominantly gay and Hispanic since it was “Latin night” at Pulse.
Around Orlando, people left balloons, flowers, pictures and posters at a makeshift memorial in front of the city’s new performing arts center and at Orlando Regional Medical Center where 49 white crosses were emblazoned with red hearts and the names of the victims.
The crosses were built by a Chicago carpenter with a history of constructing crosses for victims of mass shootings. Greg Zanis drove from Illinois to Orlando last week and installed the crosses at the medical center, where many of the 53 shooting victims who survived were taken for treatment.
Dr. Khurshid Ahmed was part of a group of Muslim-Americans at a Sunday vigil attended by tens of thousands who held signs reading, “Muslims Condemn Extremism.” A letter from the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, said Mateen wrote on Facebook that “real Muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the West.”