City officials in Orlando, Florida, on Monday released recordings of mass shooter Omar Mateen’s conversations with police during his standoff at a gay nightclub in June.
Circuit Judge Margaret Schreiber, in response to news media lawsuits, ordered the city to make public phone calls the gunman made to 911 and his subsequent conversations with police negotiators. The June 12 attack on Pulse nightclub killed 50 people, including Mateen, and injured 68 others.
Transcripts of the calls between Mateen, an American citizen, and hostage negotiators became public in September. But the release of the tapes was the first opportunity for the public to hear the 29-year-old shooter’s voice. More than two dozen media organizations sued the city for the recordings, arguing they are public information. The city claimed state law allowed it to keep the tapes secret.
“I want to let you know I’m in Orlando and I did the shooting,” Mateen calmly says to a 911 operator. Later in the call, Mateen pledged loyalty to an Islamic State terrorist leader.
The standoff between Mateen and police lasted hours in the early morning, when the club was filled with frightened, wounded and dead patrons.
In one call with a negotiator from the city police, Mateen cites American military action in the Middle East as a motive.
“Can you tell me where you are right now so I can get you some help?” a male officer asks Mateen early in one conversation.
“No, because you have to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq. They’re killing a lot of innocent people so what am I to do here when my people are getting killed over there. You get what I’m saying?” Mateen says as his voice shows signs of irritation.
“I do. I completely get what you’re saying, but what I’m trying to do is prevent anybody else from getting injured,” the negotiator says.
The negotiator questions Mateen about his weapons and the wounded people inside the club. Mateen, however, refuses to provide even basic information.
“I’m not letting you know nothing,” Mateen says. He warns ― falsely ― that there was an explosive in a vehicle parked outside of the club.
“My name is Islamic soldier,” he says when asked for his name. Mateen repeatedly condemns U.S. airstrikes in Muslim countries and praises Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the brothers who carried out the Boston Marathon bombing.
The police negotiator’s frustration seems to grow during extended silences. “I need you to talk to me. This is a serious matter and I want to take this seriously and I want to listen to what you have to say. But I can’t do that if this is a one-sided conversation,” says the negotiator.
In a later call, Mateen says his massacre was in response to a U.S. bombing in Iraq that killed a top ISIS leader.
“Yo, the airstrike that killed Abu Wahib a few weeks ago. That’s what triggered it, okay,” Mateen says.
At one point, the negotiator asks if Mateen had any accomplices.
“No, Mr. Hotshot Negotiator,” Mateen says. “No. Don’t play no bullshit.” He adds: “None of your business, homeboy.”
There were gaps when police lost contact with Mateen, who stopped answering his phone.
“I’m still not convinced this guy is in there,” a negotiator said after several unsuccessful attempts to reach Mateen.
“You’re annoying me with these phone calls and I don’t really appreciate it,” Mateen says after one such break in communications.
Some calls to 911 from patrons and their worried family members have previously been released by Orange County authorities, but Orlando officials have withheld more than 200.
The judge has not yet ruled the release of those recordings.