As the nation continued to mourn and with the grim task of identifying the dead inside Orlando’s Pulse nightclub nearly complete, authorities on Monday released chilling new details about the standoff and gun battle that ultimately felled mass killer Omar Mateen.
The 29-year-old gunman, after an initial gun battle with an officer working off-duty at the club and other cops, holed up in a nightclub bathroom with several hostages. He called police over the course of three hours but made no real demands, Orlando Police Chief John Mina told reporters during a Monday morning news conference.
During the standoff, Mateen began calling police, conversations that included an “allegiance to the Islamic State,” the chief said. “I would say he was cool and calm when he was making those phone calls to us,” Mina said.
Mateen began talking about bombs and explosives. “We believed a further loss of life was imminent,” Mina said.
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Police explosives failed to breach the wall. An armored police vehicle known as a Bearcat was then deployed to punch a hole in the club’s wall. Clubgoers began streaming out — as did Mateen, who emerged and fired at SWAT officers. One officer was hit in his Kevlar helmet, but survived. Mateen was shot dead.
“SWAT officers acted very heroically and courageously in saving many, many lives,” Mina said.
Monday morning’s news conference unfolded as state and federal authorities continued their investigation into what drove Mateen to kill 49 people in what is now the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Mateen, a security guard described an mentally unhinged, stormed the gay club about 2 a.m., armed with an AR-15 assault rifle and a handgun.
The horrific carnage at the popular Orlando nightspot spurred vigils across the nation, intense grief among the gay community and again raises questions about gun control in a country already weary of mass shootings.
So far, authorities in Orlando have publicly identified 26 of the victims, while investigators worked to notify the relatives of the rest. Orlando’s FBI Special Agent in Charge Paul Wysopal clarified that the 50th person slain was Mateen himself.
“We don’t really count the shooter as a victim,” Wysopal said.
Throughout the night, agents had worked more than 100 leads, executing search warrants and obtaining court orders for electronics. As the final bodies were removed, a federal “shooting reconstruction” team was brought into help chart the chaotic and bloody scene.
A third gun was found inside Mateen’s car, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives revealed on Monday. The two guns used in the attack, purchased in recent weeks, have already been traced, although ATF did not reveal where they were bought.
There are no other threats to the community right now, Orlando U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley told reporters, although agents are still scouring for evidence.
“If anyone else was involved in this crime, they will be prosecuted,” he said.
The FBI has twice investigated Mateen in recent years amid concerns about his ties to terrorism, but the probes failed to turn up concrete evidence. Agents are now trying to determine whether Mateen, a license security guard who was able to purchase weapons legally, was inspired by the ISIS terrorist group, or had direct connections to it overseas.