Orlando Gunman Threatened to Strap Bombs to Hostages and Warned of Snipers

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At Least 20 Dead In Mass Shooting At Orlando Gay Nightclub
Photo: Gerardo Mora/2016 Getty Images

Police have described Orlando gunman Omar Mateen as “cool and calm” in his conversations with police after he’d shot his way through Pulse, the gay nightclub where he staged his bloody attack. Now, more details are emerging about the hostage standoff in those hours between just after 2 a.m., when Mateen stormed into the club, and around 5 a.m., when police breached the bar’s walls and exchanged fire with the gunman, killing him.

According to officials, Mateen threatened to strap explosive vests onto four victims, direct them to separate corners of the club, and blow them up. Survivors say Mateen’s statements also made them think he had bombs or other devices that he planned to detonate. He told his hostages that he had snipers trained on the building — but right now signs indicate he acted alone.

Mateen’s warnings, and texts and phone calls that leaked from hostages inside the club made police strongly believe that — even after Mateen was fatally shot — he may have left explosives behind. The New York Times reports that Mateen did have a backpack, and some sort of battery pack next to him, which heightened that fear. “All indications were it was booby-trapped,” said Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer. No explosives were recovered.

Mateen apparently made multiple phone calls during the hostage standoff, including his check-ins with the police. He called 911 and declared his allegiance to ISIS, and called the Tsarnaev brothers his “homeboys.” He called News 13, a local news station, and declared his affiliation with ISIS to one producer who answered the phone around 2:45 a.m. He identified himself as the shooter, and told the producer: “I did it for ISIS. I did it for the Islamic State.”

Mateen also dialed a friend or acquaintance who lived in Florida, sources told the Washington Post, but they’re investigating that call and haven’t speculated yet on what was said between the two. 

Survivors also overhead these calls of solidarity with ISIS, and one witness reported hearing Mateen say he was motivated to do this so Americans would “stop bombing his country.” Others overhead him speaking in what they believed was Arabic. Another survivor, held hostage by the gunman in a bathroom, said at one point Mateen asked if there were any black people in the room. “You know I don’t have a problem with black people,” Mateen apparently announced. “This is about my country. You guys suffered enough.”

Investigators also told CBS News that Mateen posted a statement, riddled with errors, on social media before he carried out the bloody rampage. In it, he warned of ISIS attacks: 

Authorities have linked at least four Facebook accounts to Mateen, which they’ll be poring through as part of the expansive investigation into the shooter’s activities in the lead-up to the massacre.

This post has been updated to include information about Mateen’s social media activities.

Mateen Made Threats About Bombs, Snipers