Orlando Shooter Apparently Spared Lives After Asking a Question, Witness Said
Omar Mateen, the Orlando nightclub shooter responsible for the worst mass shooting in American history, apparently asked questions during the ordeal.
A man who spoke with Good Morning America offered some insight about the club shooting on Saturday night that left 49 people and the shooter dead. According to the witness, Mateen, a 29-year-old man from Florida, asked his hostages not to call or send text messages. When some didn’t listen to him, the man added, Mateen asked for everyone’s phone.
He then asked a strange question.
“Then he asked, ‘Are you guys black?’ And a couple of them said ‘Yes,'” the victim said. “And he said, ‘I don’t have an issue with the blacks.'”
After that, Mateen spoke with an unknown individual on the phone—possibly law enforcement or a news station—and told them: “America needs to stop bombing ISIS.”
Reports have stated that Mateen called 911 during the shooting, saying he pledged allegiance to ISIS, or the Islamic State.
“Then he called someone he knew,” the man added, “and he mentioned that he was the fourth shooter, and there were three others.”
The man said during all this, he “stood quiet” and told friends who were hiding with him in the bathroom that “I don’t think he [Mateen] knows we’re in here.” After that, Mateen entered the bathroom and fired shots.
“One black boy came crawling underneath the stall, grasping our legs and having me and my friend drop to the floor,” the man said, adding that he and his friend played dead for three hours until they were rescued.
The man said Mateen went into the bathroom to “wash his hands” and use the dryer, but then, the man “felt something poke the back of my pocket … It was like one quick touch or poke … . And he was probably thinking I’m dead.”
As he was playing dead, he heard what sounded like the attacker cleaning his gun and “shells dropping on the floor.”
Kevin West, another Pulse regular, told the Orlando Sentinel that Mateen had messaged him for several years on a chat app. The two never met, West added, but he saw Mateen enter the club at 1 a.m. on Sunday morning—about an hour before the shooting.
“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” another regular Pulse customer, Ty Smith, told the paper.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina in a press conference on Monday said that police had negotiated with the suspect but determined that they needed to make a rescue attempt. Cops slammed the nightclub with an armored vehicle, creating a hole for those trapped inside to escape.
Mina said Mateen likely wanted to kill more people, saying a “further loss of life was imminent,” forcing authorities to move. “The suspect was shooting when more officers arrived and he shot at them. He retreated to the bathroom and had several hostages,” he said in the conference.
Mina said that “dozens” of people were rescued from the incident. “I know when many of the hostages start pouring out of one of the holes, we were able to get them to safety [and] the suspect came out of one of those holes… and we did open fire on him.”
SWAT Commander Capt. Mark Canty also described what he saw.
“It’s pretty horrific–you’re talking about bodies laying around … and that amount of death. It’s pretty horrific,” he said, according to a video posted on the Orlando Police Twitter account.