Omar Mateen, the jihadist responsible for upwards of 100 casualties at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday, had enough time to wash his hands in the bathroom, and dry them under an electric blow dryer, according to one witness.
Mateen stormed the club at around 2 a.m. local time, shooting into the dance floor indiscriminately before fleeing to the bathroom, where he held dozens hostage for hours until the siege ended around 5 a.m.
During those three hours, witnesses say, and law enforcement authorities confirm, he had time to idle, check his social media presence, call authorities and media, and text with his wife.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that some witnesses who have spoken to the newspaper “said he even stopped to wash his hands and use the hot air hand drier at one point,” an act that would likely require him to put down his weapon, a Sig Sauer MCX, or hold it between his legs, leaving him vulnerable.
Facebook and cell phone records show, the newspaper reports, that Mateen “searched on Facebook for ‘Pulse Orlando’ and ‘shooting’ during his three hour early morning attack on patrons inside the Pulse nightclub.” He also made multiple status updates on his estimated five Facebook accounts, most pledging allegiance to the Islamic State and making clear his motive for attacking the gay night club: as a protest against the war on the jihadist terrorist group.
In addition to those Facebook posts, Mateen called both 911 and a local media outlet during the siege to make statements professing his allegiance to the Islamic State, the Miami Herald reports.
Mateen also texted his wife, Noor Salman, from inside the club, asking if the terror attack had made it to the news, according to CNN. “At one point, she responded with a text saying that she loved him. Salman also tried calling her husband several times during the standoff, a second law enforcement official said,” the report notes.
These details highlight a lull in the violence between the 2 a.m. beginning of the siege and its 5 a.m. conclusion, following the decision by Orlando’s SWAT team to raid the club and free those inside. The extended time Mateen was allowed control of the club before police acted has led many to question why the decision to storm the club took so long. Orlando Police Chief John Mina said at a press conference that the reason for the delay was the dramatic change in the danger for those still alive inside following an initial gunfight between a security guard and Mateen, which Mateen won.
“Once the initial shots stopped we were dealing with a hostage situation,” Mina said, noting that, in hostage situations, police first try to negotiate with the shooter.
Another question surrounding police action that remains unclear is whether, during the ultimate raid on the club, police were responsible for accidentally shooting some of the victims inside. Mina told reporters that friendly fire is “part of the investigation,” as the dark night club setting could have made it difficult for officers to identify Mateen among his hostages. At least one witness has told local news that he was shot at by police before he was successful in identifying himself as a victim and not an armed accomplice.