The gunman who killed 49 people in a shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub was not directed by a foreign terror group but was radicalised domestically, according to the FBI.
At a news conference on Monday, the FBI’s Ron Hopper also said that in 911 emergency calls, Omar Mateen described his actions to an operator in a “chilling, calm and deliberate manner”.
Transcripts released on Monday show that Mateen told a crisis negotiator the US needed to stop bombing Iraq and Syria.
Mateen (pictured) spoke three times with an emergency dispatcher once the massacre was underway.
The FBI said Mateen identified himself as an Islamic soldier. He also claimed to be equipped with bombs in a vehicle outside, though authorities say they have found no evidence of explosives.
He said to a 911 operator: “I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.”
The communications, along with Facebook posts and searches made before and during the shooting, add to the public understanding of the final hours of Mateen’s life.
The investigation into the June 12 shooting is continuing.
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 centre and at Orlando Regional Medical Centre where 49 white crosses were emblazoned with red hearts and the names of the victims.
Dozens more people were wounded in the massacre, which is the worst mass shooting in modern US history.
The first call came more than half an hour after the first shots were fired, when Mateen told a 911 operator: “Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God.”
Mateen’s name and the groups and people to whom he pledged allegiance were omitted from the excerpt. But the FBI has previously stated that he pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State.
Shortly after the call, 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 and that is why he was “out here right now”, according to the excerpt.
Orlando’s police chief said officers were on the scene within minutes and saved many lives.
Chief John Mina said the timeline clearly shows officers’ arrival. He says officers’ initial entry caused gunman Mateen to stop shooting. Mina also emphasised that the incident started as an active shooter situation.
He said: “There was never a concern that he was going to get away. We were going to take him into custody.”
Officials have conducted over 500 interviews and have more than 600 pieces of evidence from the crime scene at Pulse. He said they are nearly done processing the scene.
The release of the transcripts came a day after tens of thousands of people held a candlelight vigil in the heart of Orlando for the 49 victims who died. The victims were also remembered at church services and at makeshift memorials throughout Orlando.
“As a community, its important that we gather together to show our support because only together can we move forward,” said Gabrielle Claire, a musician and Universal Orlando worker who says she knew three Pulse victims who died. She was holding a “Hugs for Healing” sign at the vigil and numerous strangers came up to hug her.
“We don’t have to be afraid of holding each other. We don’t have to be afraid of saying to other people, ‘I’m here for you,'” she said.
Meanwhile, hospital officials said four people remained in critical condition on Monday morning, more than a week after they were wounded in the attack.
Orlando Regional Medical Centre 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.