FBI releasing conversations between gunman and police

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) — Federal investigators promised to provide more insight as to what was happening inside the Pulse nightclub after a gunman started a deadly assault that was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The FBI was releasing on Monday a printed, partial transcript of the conversations between the gunman within the Pulse gay nightclub and Orlando police negotiators, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.

An FBI spokesman said agents would offer further details about the shooting, including the transcripts, at a Monday news conference near the nightclub.

 

The release is coming a day after tens of thousands of people held a candlelight vigil in the heart of downtown Orlando for the 49 victims who died in the massacre. The victims also were remembered at church services and at makeshift memorials throughout Orlando.

“As a community, it’s important that we gather together to show our support because only together can we move forward,” said Gabrielle Claire, a musician and Universal Orlando worker who says she knew three Pulse victims who died. She was holding a “Hugs for Healing” sign at the vigil and numerous strangers came up to hug her.

“We don’t have to be afraid of holding each other. We don’t have to be afraid of saying to other people, ‘I’m here for you,'” she said.

Meanwhile, hospital officials said four people remained in critical condition Monday morning, more than a week after they were wounded in the attack.

Orlando Regional Medical Center said 18 victims from the shooting were still at the hospital and three more surgeries were scheduled for Monday. The other 14 patients are listed in stable condition.

Lynch said in interviews Sunday on several news shows that the FBI would release a partial, printed transcript of the conversations between gunman Omar Mateen from within the Pulse nightclub and Orlando police negotiators. Armed with a semi-automatic weapon, Mateen went on a bloody rampage at the club June 12 that left 49 people dead and 53 others seriously hurt. Mateen died in a hail of gunfire after police stormed the venue.

Lynch told ABC’s “This Week” that the top goal while intensifying pressure on the Islamic State — the extremist group thought to have inspired Mateen — is to build a complete profile of him in order to help prevent another massacre like Orlando.

“As you can see from this investigation, we are going back and learning everything we can about this killer, about his contacts, people who may have known him or seen him. And we’re trying to build that profile so that we can move forward,” Lynch said.

Lynch said she would be traveling to Orlando on Tuesday to meet with investigators.

Speaking to CBS’ “Face The Nation,” Lynch said that a key goal of the investigation was to determine why Mateen targeted the gay community. The victims were predominantly gay and Hispanic since it was “Latin night” at Pulse.

“We are hurting. We are exhausted, confused, and there is so much grief,” said Larry Watchorn, a ministerial intern, during a sermon Sunday at Joy Metropolitan Community Church in Orlando, whose congregants are predominantly gay.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott described the attack as “devastating” while praying at the First Baptist Church of Orlando on Sunday. He said the gunman targeted “two very vulnerable populations.”

“But here is the positive out of it … people have come together,” Scott said. “There are so many people who have done so many wonderful acts.”

Around Orlando, people left balloons, flowers, pictures and posters at a makeshift memorial in front of the city’s new performing arts center and at Orlando Regional Medical Center where 49 white crosses were emblazoned with red hearts and the names of the victims.

The crosses were built by a Chicago carpenter with a history of constructing crosses for victims of mass shootings. Greg Zanis drove from Illinois to Orlando last week and installed the crosses at the medical center, where many of the 53 shooting victims who survived were taken for treatment.

He said Sunday that the crosses are a message for people of all faiths: “Quit judging and start loving.”

A rainbow appeared over Lake Eola Park Sunday evening as tens of thousands of people turned out for an evening vigil to honor the victims of the shooting. The park was filled with people holding white flowers, American flags and candles.

One of those people attending, Traci Hines-McKenzie, said the timing of the rainbow was perfect.

“You know that’s a sign,” she said.

Dr. Khurshid Ahmed was part of a group of Muslim-Americans at the vigil who held signs reading, “Muslims Condemn Extremism.” Investigators have said Mateen reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, and a letter from the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, said Mateen wrote on Facebook that “real Muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the West.”

At the end of the vigil, people held up their candles as the names of each victim were read, creating a ring of fire around Lake Eola. They chanted “One Orlando,” ”Orlando United” and “Somos Orlando,” Spanish for “We are Orlando.”

“That event has gotten the attention of the world,” said Evania Nichols, an Orlando resident. “And, for Orlando — a city that’s always been incredibly inclusive no matter your skin color, no matter your background — it’s brought about a movement that I think is starting here and I really hope continues.”

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