911 transcript: Club gunman said US must stop Syria bombing

Omar Mateen, 29, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, has been identified as the gunman who opened fire at Pulse nightclub in Orlando in what is now the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. (Courtesy: MySpace)
Omar Mateen, 29, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, has been identified as the gunman who opened fire at Pulse nightclub in Orlando in what is now the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. (Courtesy: MySpace)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The gunman responsible for the worst mass shooting in U.S. history told a police negotiator during a standoff at an Orlando nightclub that the United States needed to stop bombing Syria and Iraq, according to a transcript of the phone conversation released Friday.

Omar Mateen identified himself to a 911 operator as the shooter at the Pulse nightclub about a half hour after the massacre started and he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

“I want to let you know I’m in Orlando and I did the shooting,” he said.

When a police negotiator called him back about a dozen minutes later, Mateen told the negotiator he needed to stop the U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. A U.S. led coalition has targeted Islamic State militants with airstrikes in those two countries.

“They are killing a lot of innocent people,” said Mateen, a New York-born son of an Afghan immigrant. “What am I to do here when my people are getting killed over there? You get what I’m saying?”

Mateen also compared himself to Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, according to the transcripts. Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two bombs exploded at the marathon’s finish line in 2013.

“My homeboy Tamerlan Tsarnaev did his thing on the Boston Marathon,” Mateen said. “So, now it’s my turn, OK?”

Mateen told the negotiator that he had fasted and prayed all day since it was the Muslim holiday, Ramadan.

Mateen also told the police negotiator that he had planted bombs in a vehicle outside the gay nightclub. Mateen’s statement ended up being false, but police officers took the threat seriously at the time.

This week, the city of Orlando has made public dozens of 911 calls, as well as the transcripts of three conversations Mateen had with police negotiators, after fighting with media groups seeking their release. A hearing is being held Friday on the litigation between the city and two dozen media groups, including The Associated Press.

The June 12 nightclub attack claimed 49 lives and seriously injured 53 others.

The media groups had argued that the release of the more than 600 records would help the public evaluate the police response to the massacre. The city had said the records were exempt from the state’s public records law, both because they were part of an investigation and because some were graphic calls of patrons being shot and killed.

Earlier this month, the FBI, which is investigating the mass shooting, said that withholding the records was no longer necessary to its probe.

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