Orlando police give timeline of nightclub shootings
ORLANDO, Fla. – Officials revealed fresh details Monday about the attack, which began when Mateen, a security guard from Fort Pierce, Florida, entered the packed club at about 2 a.m. Sunday with an assault rifle and a pistol and started shooting, leaving 49 dead and at least 53 wounded.
During the attack, Omar Mateen called 911 to pledge allegiance to the ISIS terror group and mentioned the Boston Marathon bombers, according to a U.S. official.
ISIS sympathizers have reacted by praising the attack on pro-ISIS forums, while the official online ISIS radio channel, Al-Bayan, described it as a "raid on a Crusader gathering" carried out by "one of the Caliphate's soldiers in America."
Orlando police Chief John Mina told reporters Monday that police crisis negotiators tried to negotiate with Mateen during the attack, to no avail.
"He was cool and calm when he was making those phone calls to us," Mina said. "We had a team of crisis negotiators that did talk to the suspect just trying to get as much information as possible. ... He really wasn't asking for a whole lot. We were doing most of the asking."
After a standoff of about three hours, while people trapped inside the club desperately called and messaged friends and relatives, police crashed into the building with an armored vehicle and stun grenades, officials said.
The gunbattle that killed Mateen began after he emerged through a hole that a police armored vehicle had made in the building in an attempt to rescue hostages, Mina said.
"The suspect came out of that hole himself ... and engaged in a gunbattle with officers, where he was ultimately killed," Mina said.
People inside the nightclub described a scene of panic made more confusing by the loud music and darkness.
"At first it sounded like it was part of the show because there was an event going on and we were all having a good time," clubgoer Andy Moss said. "But once people started screaming and shots just keep ringing out, you know that it's not a show any more."
Christopher Hansen said he was getting a drink at the bar about 2 a.m. when he "just saw bodies going down." He heard gunshots, "just one after another after another."
The gunshots went on for so long that the shooting "could have lasted a whole song," he said.
When the shots began, Hansen hit the ground, crawling on his elbows and knees, before he spotted a man who had been shot.
"I took my bandana off and shoved it in the hole in his back," Hansen said, adding that he saw another woman who appeared to be shot in the arm.
Survivors provided CNN with dramatic accounts of how they avoided death. One person hiding in the bathroom covered herself with bodies to protect herself. Some entertainers hid in a dressing room when the shooting started and escaped the building by crawling out when police removed the air conditioning unit.
One of the bartenders said she hid under the glass bar.
Police came in and said, "If you are alive, raise your hand." Then police got her and others out.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting an officer-involved shooting investigation. The 11 OPD officers involved are relieved of duty, as is standard in any officer-involved shooting.
The FBI is the lead Federal Law Enforcement agency and is answering questions through its Main National Press Office at 202-324-3691.
All official updates will come either from live media briefings or through the OPD Twitter account: @orlandopolice. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a State of Emergency. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has declared a local State of Emergency.
A hotline has been set up for those who believe a loved one may be a victim of the shooting. That number is 407-246-4357. As we are able to release the names of those killed, they will be posted on at http://www.cityoforlando.net/victims. Orlando Police will also continue to release the names on its Twitter account as well – @orlandopolice.
Aspire Health is offering grief counseling through the Zebra Coalition. Call 407-228-1448 for info. The LGBT Center of Central Florida, at 946 N. Mills Ave., also has counselors on hand.
Copyright 2016 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.