Return to Transcripts main page


FBI Releases Transcripts of Gunman's 911 Calls; Orlando Press Conference on Shooter. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 20, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That news conference slated to start at any minute. You're looking at live pictures. We will take you there the minute it begins.

First, let's go to CNN justice correspondent, Evan Perez.

Evan, give us a sense of this new time line and these new transcripts. It starts at 2:02 with multiple shots fired at the Pulse nightclub.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It begins at 2:02 when the first calls come in about multiple shots fired at the Pulse nightclub. If quickly becomes a series of conversations with both the 911 center in Orlando and hostage negotiators as they tried to end the standoff which doesn't end until 5:15 a. m.

I'll read you the part where he talks to the 911 operator. There were three calls to 911 or three conversations to 911. The first two ended very quickly. He hung up. The last one lasted about 50 seconds. We can show a little bit of what he said. "Emergency 911. This is being recorded," the operator says. And he responds, "In the name of God, the merciful, the beneficial" -- in Arabic he speaks. The operator doesn't understand. He says, "Praise be to God, and prays as well. Peace on the prophet of God. In Arabic, he's speaking. "I'll let you know I'm in Orlando and I did the shootings." "What's your name," the operator says? My name is, "I pledge allegiance to" -- and this is where he first mentions ISIS. And he says -- they ask him again what his name is he says, "I pledge allegiance to" -- this is the leader of ISIS, al Baghdadi," who he praises and says he's pledging allegiance to. "Where are you at?" He says, "In Orlando." "Where in Orlando?" And he hangs up again.

There are a couple other phone calls that follow. This one with hostage negotiators in which he praises the Boston bombers. He mentioned that he's wearing a suicide vest like the ones that were used in France. He specifically says that. And he rails against U.S. policy in Syria and Iraq, says that the U.S. needs to stop bombing the territory of the Islamic State.

And what's interesting about the time line is that, after the initial burst of shooting, according to the Orlando police, there is no shooting again until the end of the standoff. So during that time they're talking to him. This is one reason why police allowed that standoff to continue, because they felt they were -- had a better chance of protecting and saving the lives of those people that were inside the bathroom. I should note one thing here. There's been something peculiar about

this. Florida law requires the release of these transcripts. It's a public record. The Justice Department has decided that they're going to omit references to ISIS and to al Baghdadi. I'm not sure what their reasoning is since they're already said all of these things in press conference. They've said this to us as reporters. So it's a very curious thing they've decided to redact. The attorney general says yesterday, simply not to re-victimize the victims and to not provide more propaganda for ISIS. But really, ISIS has won whatever propaganda advantage they have from this shooting. They released a video over the weekend endorsing it and calling for more of them. So it's an odd thing for the Justice Department to do, especially because now what they're doing is fanning more conspiracies. Now you have people saying they're trying to hide ISIS' role in this -- John?

BOLDUAN: Evan, stand by.

We're seeing live pictures right now from Orlando outside the Pulse nightclub where this FBI news conference is set to begin. You can see them walking to the mic right now. Let's listen in.

LEE BENTLEY, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA: Good morning, everyone. I'm Lee Bentley, the United States attorney for the middle district of Florida. This press conference was called to release partial transcripts of calls the shooter, Omar Mateen, had with 911 operators as well as with crisis negotiators with the Orlando Police Department. As the attorney general announced yesterday, these are partial transcripts. Redactions have been made to avoid re- victimizing those who were in the Pulse nightclub during the early morning hours of June 12th.

We wanted to release the transcripts at this time so that the public would have a better idea of the time line during the morning hours of June 12th and also so that you would have a better idea of what the law enforcement officers on the ground were dealing with when they made the decision to enter the nightclub. The brave men and women of the Orlando Police Department, the Orange County Sheriff's Office, the FBI and others should not be second guessed. They performed valiantly during those early morning hours. Lives were saved because of their heroic work.

[11:05:10] I'd like to say that today there will be no questions answered regarding the investigation. It's been one week since the shooting. As you all know, this is a very thorough and comprehensive investigation of the largest mass shooting we've had, the most significant terrorist act since 9/11. No stone is being left unturned. I know that you're impatient for more information. It will be forthcoming in due course, but today, again, no questions about the investigation.


BENTLEY: Today, there will be no questions answered about the investigation. We're focusing only on the time line of what occurred during the early morning hours of June 12th. Tomorrow, the attorney general is going to be in Orlando. She's going

to be briefed on the ground by me, the others at the U.S. attorney's office, by the FBI. She's going to have a chance to speak to the victims. And it's my understanding that unless things change, she will be speaking to the press tomorrow afternoon. You will have a chance to ask her questions then.

But for now, I'd like to turn it over to my colleague at the FBI, assistant special agent in charge, Ron Hopper, and he can give you more details.

Thank you.

RON HOPPER, FBI ASSISTANT SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Thank you, United States Attorney Bentley.

Good morning. My name is Ron Hopper. I'm the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI here in Orlando, also in charge of the Joint Terrorism Fast Force, which is conducting this current investigation.

This investigation is one week and one day old, and it may last months and even years. But I want you to know that he will endeavor to bring justice to the victims survived as well as the families of the deceased who were so viciously murdered. As many of us celebrated Father's Day this past weekend, several were reminded of their lost one and the tragic events that happened on June 12th.

Before I provide an update in the investigation, I'd like to acknowledge my partners that are here with me today. I'd like to recognize Chief John Mina with the Orlando Police Department who will provide remarks following my comments, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, Florida Department of Law Enforcement SAC Danny Banks, DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jeff Walsh, AFT Trevor Velnor, Mayor of Orlando Buddy Dyer, Mayor of Orange County Teresa Jacobs, and additional partners, including the Florida Highway Patrol, Orange County Fire Department, Orlando Fire Department, and many other partners who assisted us in this difficult investigation.

The Joint Terrorism Fast Force has released excerpts and portions of the time line of events that happened inside the club, of the Pulse, on June 12th. You have been provided with a general time line of the Orlando Police Department's radio communications as well as a 50- second conversation between the killer and the Orlando police dispatcher. While we're not releasing the audio, what I can tell you is that while the killer made these murderous statements, he did so in a chilling, calm, and deliberate manner. Finally, a summary of the communications between the shooter have been provided to you. And the chief will take your comments and questions after my formal remarks.

While we will not be providing the 911 calls made by the victims, we're doing this out of ultimate respect. Yes, the audio is compelling, but to expose that now would be excruciatingly painful to exploit them in this way.

This is an active investigation. It remains an active investigation. While we understand your interest, we appreciate your patience as we find the facts methodically and carefully.

As you will see from the transcripts that we've provided just a few moments ago, the killer of 49 and the shooter of 53 others identified himself as an Islamic soldier who pledged allegiance to a terrorist organization which was Bent on killing Americans. He does not represent the religion of Islam but a perverted view, which, based on what we know today, was inspired by extremist killers.

We currently have no evidence that he was directed by a foreign terrorist group but was radicalized domestically. As you can see from the information we provided just a few moments ago, the killer stated that he had an explosive device but none was found.

[11:10:03] I also want to point out the heroic actions of not only the first responders but the victims who were inside the club that morning. They were under the inconceivable stress, and they bravely assisted law enforcement in bringing it to a resolution. There's no doubt that their actions saved lives.

Our investigation into the motives behind the killer and anyone who may have conspired with him or supported him continues. Please also keep in mind that the investigation of the shooting exchanged between police and the killer is ongoing. I would point out that some have mistakenly rushed to judgment regarding the actions of these brave men and women. What they did that evening and those early morning hours was nothing less than extraordinary.

To give you an idea of the scope of the investigation to date, I want to provide you with a few facts. The Joint Terrorism Fast Force has conducted over 500 interviews as we sit here today. 117 vehicles were released to owners and registrants of family members of the victims who were at the Pulse nightclub and we have approximately 10 left to return. More than 600 pieces of evidence were obtained and processed from the crime scene. We've received thousands of tips based on our appeal to the public and we ask that you continue to call us at 1-800- call FBI or visit

In closing, I want to advice that we're nearing the conclusion of our processing of the crime scene here outside the Pulse nightclub and that we hope to restore the area and the outside perimeter to the community within the early part of this week.

I want to point out special and extraordinary devotion to the effort here by the Christ Church of Orlando, the Salvation Army, and countless businesses in the Orlando area that have supported law enforcement and our efforts tremendously as their way of paying respect to the victims of this horrendous act.

I'd also like to recognize the tremendous efforts of the FBI's Evidence Response Team who spent the last week processing the most devastating crime scene under circumstances that were very difficult. It's a life-changing experience for all of us, and they've done their duty quietly and among the most noble law enforcement professionals.

As I mentioned earlier, this area is expected to be restored to relative normal business early this week and we do not expect to hold any further conferences from this location.

Thank you.

I'd now like to turn it over to Chief John Mina.


Good morning. First, I want to say we appreciate the incredible patience that our community has. We know there are many questions, and people want to know what happened that night. The time line released based upon radio communications clearly shows our officers were within the club within minutes and engaged the suspect in gunfire, and that's important because that engagement and that initial entry caused him to retreat, stop shooting, and barricade himself in the bathroom with hostages. So it's important to note that this started as an active shooter situation. Our officers took action and then transitioned into a barricade gunman hostage situation. So after that second exchange of gunfire upon that initial entry of our officers, there was no other gunfire until the hostage rescue operation took place. So during that three hours, I want to make sure everyone is clear on that, there was no gunfire.

So during that time, our officers were intermittently in and out of that club saving people, rescuing people from inside the club. That's another misconception. We were inside the club along with our fellow agency partners. And at some point -- as you see on the time line, our officers were able to push an air conditioning through to one of the dressing rooms and I believe saved eight people out of that room. So I'm extremely proud of the heroic actions of our officers and I am very confident they saved many, many, many lives that night.

We continue to concentrate on the security of the crime scene and eventually will open up roadways and businesses, but we ask people please be patient with us on that. We're also concentrating on the many vigils and events and providing security for everyone and making sure everyone feels safe as well. And also our top priority at the city of Orlando a making sure our residents are safe and the reduction of crime.

[11:14:55] Again, I want to thank everyone for their patience as we go through this process. And I also want to thank the community for the huge outpouring of support for our local law enforcement who did a tremendous job in this situation.

I'm going to turn it over to Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings at this time.


Good morning. You've now heard about the time line of events during the early morning hours of June the 12th. As you've heard, this has been a collaborative effort from the very beginning. I must say that the response of the Orlando Police Department and those initial responding law enforcement officers has been nothing less than short of being extraordinary. One of the reasons why the response was extraordinary is really because of the overall preparedness to deal with an incident like this. Prior to this crisis, our federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies have been preparing for this event. In fact, for years now, we have prepared to respond to a terror event. In recent months, our agencies have been involved in training our personnel to be able to rapidly respond to an active shooter incident.

In terms of our overall preparedness, I want to talk a little bit about our partnership with the Department of Homeland Security. In September of 2014, in fact, on September the 9th and September the 10th, we participated in a joint counterterrorism exercise that was held here in Orlando at the Orange County Convention Center. That exercise was designed to prepare us to respond to an active shooter situation involving mass casualties. On October the 28th of 2014, the Department of Homeland Security undersecretary, General Francis Taylor, visited our Central Florida Intelligence Exchange, which refer to as our Fusion Center here locally. This is a tremendous asset to our region because our Fusion Center, the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange, has our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners who work daily regarding counterterrorism efforts in this community. During the events of June the 12th, they were activated and were successful in disseminating substantial information to our law enforcement partners here within our region as well as across our nation. The Fusion Center has continued to be and play a vital role in the efforts since that time. They have been involved in providing daily updates and situation reports to law enforcement partners. They've also provided daily counterterrorism reports and working with the FBI in this investigation. Their efforts will continue on a day- to-day basis.

I will share you that in this community, the citizens who live here should be confident by knowing that you have competent law enforcement authorities who are able to respond rapidly to any situation that we will be confronted with in the future. However, their daily efforts to prevent a similar attack from occurring, that will be based solely on the collaboration between, again, our federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities.

Let me move on now and talk just briefly about the first responders. Chief Mina mentioned the heroic acts of those first responders. We want to make certain that at this point we do take care of our personnel because, on that day, they saw some very horrific things, and our goal is moving forward to ensure that they are provided with the diffusion as well as counseling sessions to ensure that, to what extent we can, we can minimize any PTSD-type effects on them in the future.

Again, I am going to conclude by saying that our community remains a safe community, and we certainly support people coming in and visiting our community. It is a vibrant community, a resilient community, and much of what you have seen in the last few days and hours has seen a reminder that this community is still here and willing and working together to make this a safe place for our families and our visitors here.

Thank you so much.

[11:20:04] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now we'll take questions.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Could you clarify something on the time line.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You say that the shooting -- the gunman retreated to the bathroom. (INAUDIBLE)

MINA: There was no shooting for that three-hour period until the commencement of the hostage rescue operation.


MINA: Well, during that time, we were ensuring that our explosive entry team had set the charge and everyone was ready for an explosive entry. So that does take time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Agent Hopper, at your last update, you asked the public for help trying to figure out the picture of the shooter and why he did it. These transcripts show he told you why he did it. He did it for the Islamic State. What good does it do redacting all statements having to do with ISIS?

HOPPER: Part of the redacting is meant to not give credence to individuals who have done terrorist acts in the past. We're not going to propagate their rhetoric, their violent rhetoric, and we see no value in putting their names back out there. We're trying to prevent future acts from happening again. And for cowards like this one, people like that influence them, so we're not going to continue to put their names out front.



HOPPER: I'm not familiar with the other investigations you may be referring to, but for this one we think it's highly important.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Outside the three hours, there were shots fired at 2:08, an exchange between the shooter and police officers that responded and then shots fired at 5:15 after the breach of the wall. During those two instances of gunfire, were there any casualties?

MINA: Repeat your question.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Outside of the three hours, where there's no gunfire in the club, at 2:04 when there was initial exchange for the backup officers inside the club and at 5:14 after the breach of the wall, were there any casualties that resulted from that gunfire besides the shooter?

MINA: That's all part of the investigation. All of that is being reconstructed at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION) MINA: I don't understand what you're saying.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You all sound like you're responding to criticism of the response. You sound like there's something very specific that you're -- addressing. I'd like to know what that is.

MINA: We received some comments from the press and from the public, e-mails, about -- I think there's a misconception that we didn't do anything for three hours, and I'm trying to clarify that that's absolutely not true. Our officers were within the club within minutes, exchanged gunfire with the suspect, forced him to stop shooting and retreat into the bathroom. From there, we let our negotiator take over and try to negotiate this to a peaceful resolution in an effort to save lives while our SWAT team set up. So that's the issue for the clarification.


MINA: Say what?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was there any negotiations back and forth with the gunman?

HOPPER: Some of that was released this morning.


MINA: Yes. Some of that was released earlier.


MINA: Our negotiator was talking with him.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Chief, how likely is it that some of the victims may have been shot and killed by police gunfire in the initial attempt to save lives?

MINA: That's all part of the investigation. But here is what I will tell you. Those killings are on the suspect, and on the suspect alone, in my mind. All that will be investigated by our officer, who acted heroically and did as they were trained in unbelievable circumstances and did a phenomenal job.



MINA: The question was how difficult was it for me to make that decision. I will tell you, as the sheriff said, we have been training for this situation for many, many years, since Columbine, since 9/11. I knew our officers were ready. I knew our SWAT team members were ready. I knew our hospitals were ready. And it's a very difficult decision to make, but it was the right decision at the right time, and I stand by that and would make the same decision standing here today.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- Setting the victims' 911 calls aside, the redactions obviously would invite controversy and questions. Why would you want to redact anything if it came out of the shooter's mouth? Why not let it speak for itself and then bring the analysis in on the back end?

[11:25:08] HOPPER: Sir, I have already addressed that question. We're not going to propagate violent rhetoric that comes from other people whether they be here or overseas, and to do that would only inflame other people here that might be like-minded. There's no purpose in doing that.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Florida law allows that kind of exemption?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When it comes to other attacks on the Orlando area in the following days -- (INAUDIBLE)

HOPPER: That's an excellent question. So immediately upon dealing with this situation, we had an intelligence component directed specifically at determining whether or not other threats existed to this area as well as throughout the United States nationally. I can tell you there's a specific finite time when we said, OK, everything is fine, the coast is clear. In fact, we continue to do that this day. That's the reason the Joint Terrorism Fast Force exists as well as the partnerships with our state and local partners. We do that second by second, minute by minute daily, so we continue to do that.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). Were you trying to keep him talking so you could save people?

MINE: Absolutely. Anytime we can engage a suspect in a hostage situation, we definitely want to keep them talking not only to peacefully resolve the situation and cause less life to be lost but also to set up and make sure our teams are ready to enter, yes.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The second part of my question -- (INAUDIBLE)

MINA: There was never a concern that he was going to get away. We were going to take him into custody.



MINA: What's that? UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said the call log for the SWAT team -- how

soon was the SWAT team assembled there. Why didn't they go in until on the time line -- (INAUDIBLE).

MINA: Our SWAT team responded and set up for all situations. And part of that -- I'm not going to go into all of our tactics but I will say it takes time to set up explosives and do an explosive entry. Those things take time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: All the witnesses inside the club during those three hours, can you talk about the information they may have given to officers, did it help them.

MINA: Absolutely. Those calls were very vital and that's how we received the information about the explosives. So very vital to receive that information from people inside of the club.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- the motive been anything other than radical Islamic terror as you look through things about his life, his family, things he were up to. Do you think there that's reason he could have gone in to attack for any reason other than acting as an Islamic fighter?

HOPPER: Yes, absolutely. We're actually looking into any potential motive. We're not limiting ourselves to coming up with one motive. We're looking at a myriad of things right now and that's ongoing both through social media, friend contacts, people that have only met the individual for one time. That's why we're asking for anybody and everybody that's had any contact with this individual to come forward so we can piece that information together for potential other motives as well.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- the gunman was gay?

HOPPE: Those allegations are still being vetted out as we speak and there's no determination been made at this time.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two more questions.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I wonder if your officers, when the actual shooting was happening, were able to access that video and watch the movements of the shooter inside the club.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And also please answer the question --


MINA: I can't talk about any video. That's all part of the investigation.

Do you have a question?


MINA: No, I can't talk about that at this time.


MINA: Last question.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- several witnesses at the club -- (INAUDIBLE). Who else did he speak with?

HOPPER: We can't comment on that.

MINA: We can't comment on that.

Thank you very much.

[11:29:44] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: So you're hearing right there the FBI, U.S. attorney's office and local law enforcement speaking to reporters and laying out in more detail a detailed time line of what happened in that nightclub in Orlando but more specifically the phone calls, the conversations between the killer, between the shooter and 911 and hostage -- and crisis negotiators. More detail coming out. Two important notes -- a lot came out, but one important note is they said there were no shots in the three-hour period.