FBI Releases Partial Transcripts From Orlando Shooter's 911 Calls
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And we are learning new details this morning about the massacre inside an Orlando nightclub just over a week ago. The FBI has just released partial transcripts of 911 calls made by the shooter Omar Mateen. That's among other information as well. Let's bring NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson who's been following this story so closely over the past week. Carrie, good morning.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, David.
GREENE: So what's new here?
JOHNSON: So we know the shooter, Omar Mateen, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and criticized American policy on bombings overseas. The FBI says he presented himself as an Islamic soldier and that even though we didn't hear the recordings, the FBI says he talked in a chilling, calm and deliberate manner.
GREENE: Now we should say here - I mean, news organizations - a few dozen of them, including NPR, asked for the full transcripts and these tapes and everything. And NPR has not officially responded yet to the authorities deciding to omit some material. So it makes me wonder - what exactly is omitted here?
JOHNSON: We are not seeing the exact pledge, the exact words of the shooter to the leader of the Islamic State. They also did not give us the name of the shooter nor transcripts of victim calls from inside the nightclub.
GREENE: Why not release those things? Why not release everything?
JOHNSON: Well, the U.S. attorney in charge of this investigation, Lee Bentley, says they don't want to re-victimize people who were inside that club. And the FBI says if they don't want inflame other people here in the U.S. who may have radical tendencies. Enormously controversial, though, the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a Republican, just criticized the administration for selectively editing those materials.
GREENE: Well, you know, Carrie, you and I have talked in the days after this about the exact timing. And I know we have some sort of chronology that they've released this morning. And one question - whether people in the club might have died in those few hours between the actual shooting and when the police were able to kill the shooter - I mean, are you interested in what the timeline is that we're seeing this morning?
JOHNSON: David, we now know from this timeline that law enforcement was inside the nightclub within six minutes of the initial report. And the Orlando Police Chief John Mina says this was an active shooter situation that turned into a hostage-taking situation. Law enforcement says they were able to save a lot of people, including some people by removing an air conditioner, making a hole in the wall to let some people run out.
GREENE: Now, that sounds like something new, that the police were actually there within minutes of the actual shooting. But a few hours then went on before they actually were able to kill the shooter and get people who survived out. Is that - am I reading that clearly?
JOHNSON: I think that's new. Now, law enforcement also says three hours passed that morning without shots being exchanged between the killer and police. But all this remains under investigation, as does how many people may have died inside the club bleeding out while they needed medical help waiting for authorities to come in.
GREENE: Sounded like, in this press conference - I mean, they were really talking about the heroics of the police department - I mean, trying to get that message out, even as some questions are being asked about what exactly went on. I mean, that is a message they're really trying to send.
JOHNSON: Yeah. They talked a lot about the chilling scene inside the club and how many members of law enforcement who were inside, including the SWAT team had seen a scene unlike any before in their careers. They also praised a lot of the people inside the club for their heroics and bravery, David.
GREENE: OK. We're going to be following this story as it goes on, this investigation into what happened inside that nightclub continuing for weeks, maybe months, the authorities said. And we'll be following that story as it goes. Carrie, thanks a lot.
JOHNSON: You're welcome.
GREENE: That's NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson.
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