Orlando- FBI Director James B. Comey said Monday, “the FBI is working non-stop to understand what led a man to commit a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida that left 49 people dead and dozens more injured.”
In a televised news briefing at FBI Headquarters, Comey said FBI investigators—working closely with state and local law enforcement agencies—are trying to understand “every moment of the killer’s path” leading up to the shooting early Sunday morning at a popular nightclub.
Comey said the shooter, who was killed in a gunfight with police responders, made three 911 phone calls from the Orlando nightclub during the attack. They began at about 2:30 a.m. In the calls, he claimed allegiance to the leader of the so-called Islamic State (ISIL) as well as the perpetrators of the 2013 Boston Marathon attack and a Florida man, also from Orlando, who died as a suicide bomber in Syria for a terrorist group in conflict with ISIL.
“There are strong indications of radicalization by this killer and of potential inspiration by foreign terrorism organizations,” Comey said, adding that the FBI is the lead investigative agency on this case because it is a terrorism investigation.
Director Comey also described the FBI’s prior contacts with the killer. They began in May 2013. The FBI opened an investigation when the shooter was working as a contract security guard. He made some inflammatory comments to co-workers. The shooter claimed he had a family connection to Al Qaeda. The shooter was interviewed twice during the preliminary investigation. He then admitted to making the statements, but said he had done so in anger. He directed his words at his co-workers, who he believed were discriminating against him. The case was closed after 10 months.
Two months later, the Orlando shooter’s name surfaced again. This time as a casual acquaintance of the Florida man who blew himself up in Syria. A fighter for the terrorist group al Nusra Front. “Our investigation turned up no ties of any consequence between the two of them,” Comey said. “We will continue to look forward in this investigation, and backward. We will leave no stone unturned.”
Comey said the Bureau is reviewing those cases to see if anything was missed. “We’re also going to look hard at our own work to see whether there is something we should have done differently. So far, the honest answer is: I don’t think so. I don’t see anything in reviewing our own work that our agents should have done differently.”
The Director, as well as Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, expressed sorrow for the victims and their families at the press confrence.
“Our hearts are broken and ache for the people who are lost in Orlando, those wounded, and their families,” Cormey told the media.
Comey also thanked first responders for their heroic work. “They showed professionalism and extraordinary bravery that saved lives,” he said. “We are very lucky that such good people choose lives of service in law enforcement.”