DOJ releases uncensored transcript of Omar Mateen's 911 call during the Orlando shooting

The feds backtracked on their decision to exclude any mention of the Islamic State from transcripts of the gunman's calls to 911 during his rampage.
June 20, 2016, 8:20pm
Photo by David Goldman/AP

The Department of Justice has backtracked on its decision to exclude any mention of the Islamic State or its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, from transcripts of gunman Omar Mateen's calls to 911 during his rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Following the earlier release of the transcripts on Monday, which redacted several portions, US House Speaker Paul Ryan accused the Obama administration of censorship, calling the decision to withhold some information "preposterous." Hours later, the DOJ and FBI released the full text of the calls and issued a statement explaining the move.

"The purpose of releasing the partial transcript of the shooter's interaction with 911 operators was to provide transparency, while remaining sensitive to the interests of the surviving victims, their families, and the integrity of the ongoing investigation," the statement said. "We also did not want to provide the killer or terrorist organizations with a publicity platform for hateful propaganda."

The feds also described the public's fascination with the redacted portions as an "unnecessary distraction."

Related: The Orlando gunman used Facebook during the massacre

"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 statement said.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch explained on Sunday that portions of the transcripts were redacted to avoid including any material that could "re-victimize" people who were affected by the shooting.

Mateen, who was ultimately killed in a shootout with police, took brief pauses during his siege on the Pulse nightclub to use Facebook and call 911 to declare his allegiance to the Islamic State. According to the transcripts, Mateen spoke in Arabic to a 911 dispatcher, identified himself an Islamic soldier, and demanded to a crisis negotiator that the US "stop bombing Syria and Iraq."

You can read the full transcript below:

The transcript of Omar Mateen's call to 911. (Image via FBI)

Mateen placed his first call around 30 minutes after opening fire inside the nightclub. "Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God," he said, according to the AP. "I let you know, I'm in Orlando and I did the shootings."

When the crisis negotiator asked Mateen what he had done, he replied: "No. You already know what I did."

He also said that there was a "vehicle outside that has some bombs." "You people are gonna get it, and I"m gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid."

Later in the call, he stated that he had "a vest" which he described as "the kind they used in France."

He also told the negotiator that "in the next few days, you're going to see more of this type of action going on." Mateen then hung up, and multiple attempts to reach him were then unsuccessful.

Ron Hopper, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's office Orlando, explained at a press conference outside Pulse nightclub on Monday why authorities have decided against releasing the audio of the phone calls.

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"What I can say is while the killer made these murderous statements, he did so in a calm, chilling and deliberate manner," Hopper said. "We will not be providing [the audio]... out of respect. Yes the audio is compelling, but to expose that now would be excruciatingly painful."

Law enforcement officials also said the transcripts would give the public a better sense of the timeline during the June 12 attack. Police have been criticized for waiting several hours to storm the club. Lee Bentley, US Attorney for Middle District of Florida, said the transcripts offer "a better idea of what the law enforcement officers on the ground were dealing with."

"They should not be second guessed," Bentley said. "They performed valiantly during those early morning hours. Lives were saved."

Orlando Police Chief John Mina explained that after police initially entered the nightclub following reports of gunfire, Mateen stopped shooting and barricaded himself in the bathroom with hostages. After a second exchange of gunfire, Mateen didn't shoot for three hours until the hostage rescue operation took place. In that period, Mina said, "our officers were in and out of the club" trying to help people escape.

Hopper also told reporters that there's still no evidence to suggest that Mateen was directed by a foreign terror group. The FBI agent said it appears the gunman was radicalized domestically and inspired by propaganda he saw online.

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