The FBI’s timeline of the deadliest Islamic terrorist attack within the United States since 9/11 doesn’t seem to be consistent with accounts from both the living and the dead inside Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
Today, the FBI released the following timeline of events based on Orlando Police Department (OPD) radio communications.
The following is based on Orlando Police Department (OPD) radio communication (times are approximate):
- 2:02 a.m.: OPD call transmitted multiple shots fired at Pulse nightclub.
- 2:04 a.m.: Additional OPD officers arrived on scene.
- 2:08 a.m.: Officers from various law enforcement agencies made entrance to Pulse and engaged the shooter.
- 2:18 a.m.: OPD S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons & Tactics) initiated a full call-out.
- 2:35 a.m.: Shooter contacted a 911 operator from inside Pulse. The call lasted approximately 50 seconds, the details of which are set out below:
Orlando Police Dispatcher (OD)
OD: Emergency 911, this is being recorded.
OM: In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficial [in Arabic]
OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic]. I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.
OD: What’s your name?
OM: My name is I pledge of allegiance to [omitted].
OD: Ok, What’s your name?
OM: I pledge allegiance to [omitted] may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of [omitted].
OD: Alright, where are you at?
OM: In Orlando.
OD: Where in Orlando?
[End of call.]
(Shortly thereafter, the shooter engaged in three conversations with OPD’s Crisis Negotiation Team.)
- 2:48 a.m.: First crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately nine minutes.
- 3:03 a.m.: Second crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately 16 minutes.
- 3:24 a.m.: Third crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately three minutes.
In these calls, the shooter, who identified himself as an Islamic soldier, told the crisis negotiator that he was the person who pledged his allegiance to [omitted], and told the negotiator to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq and that is why he was “out here right now.” When the crisis negotiator asked the shooter what he had done, the shooter stated, “No, you already know what I did.” The shooter continued, stating, “There is some vehicle outside that has some bombs, just to let you know. You people are gonna get it, and I’m gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid.” Later in the call with the crisis negotiator, the shooter stated that he had a vest, and further described it as the kind they “used in France.” The shooter later stated, “In the next few days, you’re going to see more of this type of action going on.” The shooter hung up and multiple attempts to get in touch with him were unsuccessful.
- 4:21 a.m.: OPD pulled an air conditioning unit out of a Pulse dressing room window for victims to evacuate.
(While the FBI will not be releasing transcripts of OPD communication with victims, significant information obtained from those victims allowed OPD to gain knowledge of the situation inside Pulse.)
- 4:29 a.m.: As victims were being rescued, they told OPD the shooter said he was going to put four vests with bombs on victims within 15 minutes.
(An immediate search of the shooter’s vehicle on scene and inside Pulse ultimately revealed no vest or improvised explosive device.)
- 5:02 a.m.: OPD SWAT and OCSO Hazardous Device Team began to breach wall with explosive charge and armored vehicle to make entry.
- 5:14 a.m.: OPD radio communication stated that shots were fired.
- 5:15 a.m.: OPD radio communication stated that OPD engaged the suspect and the suspect was reported down.
Based on OPD radio communications, there were no reports of shots being fired inside Pulse between the initial exchange of gunfire between responding officers and shooter, and the time of the final breach. During this time, the shooter communicated with an OPD 911 operator and an OPD crisis negotiator, and OPD radio communications reported that victims were being rescued.
The FBI is basing their timeline on OPD radio communications only.
Radio communications are, of course, only part of a much largest tapestry of evidence.
There are conflicting accounts as to whether OPD units were inside Pulse during the standoff, and whether OPD officers were in a position to hear gunshots.
Several pieces of evidence suggests that the OPD’s version of events doesn’t hold up, and that at least some of victims were shot and killed during the time the OPD asserts that no shooting was going on.
Eddie Justice, one of the 49 victims, was texting with his mother from 2:06 until 2:52, 49 minutes into the shooting.
Then at 2:08: “I’m gonna die.”
Now wide awake, Justice dialed 911.
She sent a flurry of texts over the next several minutes.
“I’m calling them now.
U still in there
Answer our damn phone
The 911 dispatcher wanted her to stay on the line. She wondered what kind of danger her son was in. He was normally a homebody who liked to eat and work out. He liked to make everyone laugh. He worked as an accountant and lived in a condo in downtown Orlando.
“Lives in a sky house, like the Jeffersons,” she would say. “He lives rich.”
She knew he was gay and at a club — and all the complications that might entail. Fear surged through her as she waited for his next message.
At 2:39 a.m., he responded:
“Call them mommy
He wrote that he was in the bathroom.
I’m gonna die.”
Justice asked her son if anyone was hurt and which bathroom he was in.
“Lots. Yes,” he responded at 2:42 a.m.
When he didn’t text back, she sent several more messages. Was he with police?
“Text me please,” she wrote.
“No,” he wrote four minutes later. “Still here in bathroom. He has us. They need to come get us.”
At 2:49 a.m., she told him the police were there and to let her know when he saw them.
“Hurry,” he wrote. “He’s in the bathroom with us.”
She asked, “Is the man in the bathroom wit u?”
At 2:50 a.m.: “He’s a terror.”
Then, a final text from her son a minute later: “Yes.”
Meshing Justice’s texts with OPD’s timeline shows that he was alive after the terrorist’s first nine-minute call with OPD’s hostage negotiators, but died at some point afterward, and probably before Orlando SWAT finally made their move beginning at 5:02, three full hours after the terrorist attack began.
Angel Colon, already shot five times by the terrorist, described how the terrorist moved at will from one main area of the club to the other completely unopposed and came back, re-shooting the dead and injured. If Colon’s account is correct, he says that the terrorist was able to move around the club at will and continued shooting until the end.
The gunman shoots the already wounded Colon twice more, but somehow, the survivor said, ‘by the glory of God, he shoots towards my head but it hits my hand.
‘Then he shoots me again and it hits the side of my hip,’ he recalled.
Colon was careful not to give away the fact that, despite having a half-dozen bullets lodged in his body, he was not dead.
‘I had no reaction. I was just prepared to just stay there laying down so he won’t know that I’m alive,’ he said.
‘And he’s just doing this for another five, ten minutes. He’s just shooting all over the place.’
The shooting continued, Colon said, until police who burst into the building traded fire with the gunman and rescued the survivors, three hours after the start of the ordeal.
Law enforcement firearms training expert Greg Ellifritz did a sobering review of a number of failures by law enforcement and the reactions of the club attendees in response to the attack that’s well-worth reading based on the evidence know to him at the time.
In it he suggests that based upon accounted he read, the first two officers to respond to the scene and entered the club pulled out of the building after the first round of shooting ended, and surmised that Orlando PD—like most American law enforcement probably would have—began treating this as a regular hostage negotiation, a way of approaching the problem which utterly fails to account for the fact that martyrdom and the highest possible body count is the goal of such attackers.
I spoke with another SWAT veteran on background Saturday morning about the incident, and he echoed much of what Mr. Ellifritz said.
American law enforcement tactical thinking failed badly in Orlando by pulling out and attempting to negotiate with the terrorist instead of rushing him and ending the attack by overwhelming him quickly. “Negotiating” is a tactic that terrorists use to better fortify their positions and increase casualties, which law enforcement officers in other countries have learned the hard way, with body counts ranging into the hundreds.
Other text messages and phone calls from inside the club from those who perished, other survivor accounts, and forensic evidence will slowly come together to tell the full story of what actually occurred inside Pulse.
One thing we know for sure.
A single terrorist attacked an estimated 320 people, and none of them fought back effectively, waiting for a police response that simply didn’t come in time to save most of them.
You and you alone are responsible for protecting your life.
Use that knowledge wisely, and refuse to be a victim.